There’s a new bankruptcy Judge on the bench in Tallahassee. Judge Karen Specie was appointed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and took her new position on July 24, 2012 following the retirement of Judge Lewis Killian after 25 years on the bench. Judge Specie comes to bench following a long and distinguished career as a bankruptcy attorney and as a Chapter 7 panel trustee. She is a graduate of the Florida State University School of Law and prior to her appointment was practicing with the firm of Akerman Senterfitt.
Many people are unaware that we have Judges who are specifically appointed to serve in our nation’s bankruptcy courts. Bankruptcy Judges are trial court judges with jurisdiction over matters of bankruptcy and matters that impact the bankruptcy estate. Litigation can and does occur in bankruptcy courts and, although such instances are rare, jury trials can happen in bankruptcy litigation where there are disputed issues of fact. Appeals from a Bankruptcy Court are brought in the United States District Court and progress up through the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals before arriving at the United States Supreme Court.
Bankruptcy Judges are appointed for 14-year terms, which is one characteristic that differentiates them from other Federal Judges who receive lifetime appointments. However, as we saw with Judge Killian’s career, it is not at all unusual for a bankruptcy judge to serve multiple terms. The work a Bankruptcy Judge performs is very important and challenging. Bankruptcy law is very technical in nature and a Bankruptcy Judge must have a strong command of the law while also being able to fairly balance the interests of the debtor and creditors.
Judge Specie will be taking over a very busy and geographically diverse docket. The Northern District of Florida over which she presides stretches of Gainesville to Pensacola. Fortunately, the Bankruptcy Court has implemented video-conferencing technology that allows our local Bankruptcy Judge to hold hearings in places like Panama City without having to leave Tallahassee. Of course, not all hearings are done this way and I’m certain Judge Specie will quickly become familiar with much of the Gulf Coast.
I have not yet appeared before or met Judge Specie, but I am looking forward to the experience. Judge Killian was the only Bankruptcy Judge who I, and many of my local colleagues, have ever practiced before, so this will be a new experience for me. I also expect that we will all have an opportunity to meet and welcome Judge Specie as she makes a home for herself here in Tallahassee.