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Judge in Jewish Times case calls out lawyers

Some next-day thoughts on the unexpected outcome of the two-and-a-half-day bankruptcy hearing of Alter Communications, publisher of the Baltimore Jewish Times (in which the judge rejected the restructuring plans of both Alter and its printer-turned-creditor, H.G. Roebuck & Son Inc.):

The federal judge in the case, James F. Schneider, lightened the proceedings several times with his ultra-dry wit. At one point Maria Ellena Chavez-Ruark, Alter’s attorney, was reading back word-for-word Schneider’s decision to confirm Alter’s plan in December — a decision that was later overturned by a higher court.

“It sounds so good and yet the (U.S.) District Court reversed it,” Schneider interrupted with a wistful sigh. “Such lovely prose.”

But when it came time for Schneider to make his decision he turned deathly serious, calling out not only the parties involved for their two years of bitter litigation but also their attorneys for attempting to play on his emotions.

Schneider prefaced his remarks by saying he thought Ruark and Roebuck’s attorneys, William L. Hallam and Kevin J. Pascale were some of the finest lawyers he knew. The judge then proceeded to scold them for “the extent they’ve gotten so close to the facts and issues of this case that they’ve lost their objectivity and taken on the personas of their  clients.”

Ouch.

“I’m not ready to comment on that,” Hallam said after the hearing.

Ruark was ready.

“I don’t think I’ve lost my objectivity at all,” she said. “I think my mission is the same as the company’s mission and it’s about this company surviving and continuing to do what it’s done for 92 years. It’s hard to hear comments like that, but I don’t look at Bill Hallam — and I hope he doesn’t look at me — and say that either one of us has been unreasonable.

“Emotions run deep here, there’s no doubt about that,” she continued. “It comes out in your case when you talk about the history of the parties, the length of the relationship between the parties and the amount of time these parties have been litigating.”

Hallam and Pascale are with Rosenberg|Martin|Greenberg LLP. Ruark is with Tydings & Rosenberg LLC.