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Timothy Barnes ’95 to serve as bankruptcy judge

April 5, 2012 | Alumni

A partner in the restructuring and insolvency group at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, Timothy Barnes ’95 has been appointed as bankruptcy judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Barnes was appointed by Chief Judge Frank H. Easter­brook of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and will be one of the first new members of the court in nine years. Scheduled to take office in May, he will fill the vacancy left by retiring U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan Pierson Sonderby.

Bankruptcy court judges are appointed to a term of 14 years by the U.S. court of appeals for the circuit in which the district is located. Bankruptcy courts function as units of the district courts, with subject-matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases and related matters. All 94 federal judicial districts handle bankruptcy matters.

Barnes applied for bankruptcy judgeship after the Sev­enth Circuit Court of Appeals advertised three prospec­tive vacancies. From there, each candidate was screened, which included extensive review by local attorneys, local law faculty, district court judges, and court of appeals judges, followed by a comment period and comprehensive FBI background check.

After graduating from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Barnes was first a term then the career law clerk to Chief Bankruptcy Judge William A. Clark of the Southern District of Ohio.

“Chief Judge Clark was a fantastic jurist, a good person, and a great mentor. He told me why he was deciding a case the way that he was,” Barnes said. “He’d begin by giving me latitude in drafting my own opinions, the way I thought the case should be decided. I’d then have to convince him. Chief Judge Clark would either agree or disagree, but he taught me to think independently. It was a fantastic way to mentor a law clerk.”

The clerkship, along with the practice of law generally was unexpected for Barnes. His family had strong con­nections to Ohio State, including its law school; his father Kenneth was a 1959 graduate. But Barnes, who studied at Miami University as an undergraduate, was not interested in the practice of law initially. He came to Ohio State as a Ph.D. student in linguistics.

“I enrolled in law school because my dissertation advi­sor had taken a sabbatical, and I needed something to do. So I decided to take law classes,” Barnes said. “It was not until I had Nancy Rapoport as my first-year Contracts professor that I was turned on to the law and was actually interested.”

Barnes turned his focus more on the law than his gradu­ate studies. He took the opportunity to work closely with Rapoport as her research assistant, following her disci­plinary focus. He found the topic of bankruptcy fascinat­ing and proceeded to take all of the bankruptcy, creditor, Chapter 11, and independent courses related to the sub­ject, even writing his student note on bankruptcy in the Ohio State Law Journal, where he was a managing editor.

He graduated from Moritz in December 1995, after only two-and-a-half years, while concurrently enrolled in graduate school.

After his clerkship, Barnes left the Buckeye State to work as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in Chicago. He later worked was an associate at Latham & Watkins in Chicago, then counsel at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP, where he was the firm’s first hire in Chicago and co-founded its Chicago office. In 2007, he moved to New York City to join Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, as a partner in the firm’s restructuring and insolvency group.

Barnes credits his success in bankruptcy to opportuni­ties he had to work closely with and learn from some of the most renowned professionals in the field. Among them are Jack Butler, a nationally-known corporate restructuring partner in the Chicago office of Skadden and Bob Rosen­berg, a former assistant professor at Moritz and then head of Latham’s New York insolvency practice group.

Barnes also emphasizes that in his career he has had the chance to take on many different representative roles within bankruptcy matters. Specializing in bankruptcy and debt restructuring, he has represented debtors, lenders, creditors, investors, and other parties of interest in some of the world’s largest and most complex restructuring mat­ters. Barnes notes that he has “sat in every chair around the table,” which has helped him develop insight and understanding into what other parties may be thinking.

By the time he reached Curtis, he knew he wanted to focus on international matters and companies. In addi­tion to being a U.S.-qualified attorney, he is also a solicitor in England & Wales and spends part of this time working out of the firm’s London office. He was named a Fellow of INSOL International in 2011.

Barnes has worked on numerous cross-border and international insolvency matters involving England, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and other countries. Recent highlights to his practice include his key role in the firm’s representation of an international aerospace, retail, and real estate development business consisting of more than 70 domestic and international companies in the United States and abroad.

“Curtis has afforded me the opportunity to dig into the international work that the firm is known for. That is something I will really miss. I will have to narrow my focus as a judge, back to matters within the U.S.,” Barnes said. “I will always cherish my years at Curtis, particularly the experience of working alongside my fellow lawyers in the restructuring practice.”

Describing himself as a “Midwesterner at heart,” he is looking forward to returning to Chicago. “It had to be something very special for me to leave, but this is a won­derful opportunity to do what I love, in a way that I love, in a place that I love.”