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No Pay Is No Excuse for Lawyers Amid Shutdown

Jan. 9, 2019, 2:44 PM

Lawyers for the U.S. government are working without pay as bankruptcy cases grind on during the federal shutdown. And it looks like it will stay that way. Trustees, which represent the Department of Justice, have asked the courts to press pause on several bankruptcy cases while they’re on furlough, but so far they’ve been shot down.

A Delaware judge rejected the DOJ’s request to delay the bankruptcy of Promise Healthcare Group due to the U.S. Trustee’s limited ability to continue participating in the proceedings.

Promise Healthcare is an acute care facility that treats more than 9,000 people, and Christopher Sontchi, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, said the patients’ needs trumped those of the lawyers.

“In balancing harms, I think that the protection of those patients and the debtors’ business really easily overcomes the prejudice to the government,” he said in a hearing Jan. 4.

A Pennsylvania bankruptcy Judge did however rule in favor of a stay on U.S. government-imposed deadlines in particular. Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Robert Opel granted a request from he U.S. to that effect on Jan. 8.

The U.S. Trustee acts as a watchdog in corporate bankruptcies, putting together official creditor committees and organizing meetings between debt holders and bankrupt companies

—With assistance from Steven Church and Molly Smith.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission

To contact the reporter on this story: Eliza Ronalds-Hannon in New York at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nikolaj Gammeltoft at Dan Wilchins