Judge David Kennedy’s 30 Years on the Bench, and My First Day in Bankruptcy Court

The Commercial Appeal in Memphis has a story about David Kennedy, the Chief Judge of the Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of Tennessee (Memphis), who recently celebrated his 30th year on the bench.

Judge Kennedy’s court was the first Bankruptcy courtroom I ever walked into.  It wasn’t as a debtor or as a lawyer; my sister worked in the Court’s IT department, and the Judge, hearing I was a first year law student, invited me to observe during my spring break.

Having never been to court, having never talked to a Judge, and not really knowing what “bankruptcy” was, I was in way over my head. 

But, between each of the docket calls, the bailiff came and took me back to the Judge’s chambers, where the Judge would review the issues raised in each matter with me and talk about the practice of bankruptcy law in general.

I listened intently, but–as you’d expect from a first year dreaming of a career as a prosecutor–I was drowning in deep waters. Even though none of it made any sense to me, I remember Judge Kennedy getting really fired up explaining one issue to me, and he pulled the Bankruptcy Code out to specifically read me 11 U.S.C. Sec. 1334, which states the jurisdiction of the Bankruptcy Courts.

Now, 13 years later (with eleven years of unexpected bankruptcy practice behind me), I never come across 11 U.S.C. Sec. 1334 without thinking about Judge Kennedy and the time he took to show me around and share his passion for Bankruptcy Law with me.  He was so generous with his time with me and, who knows, maybe that day in Bankruptcy Court set my path a little bit for the career I ultimately have found.

In the years since, I’ve run into the Judge in a lot of different places–Memphis basketball games, the Midsouth Commercial Law Institute Seminars–but rarely in his courtroom. Here’s hoping I make it back soon.  

Author: David

I am a creditors rights and commercial litigation attorney with Harris Shelton in Nashville, Tennessee.

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