Stanardsville, VA, February 1, 2022. The American College of Bankruptcy announced today that it will present its 2022 Distinguished Service Award to Hon. Eugene R. Wedoff, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge (ret.), Chicago, IL. Judge Wedoff will receive the award on April 1, 2022 in Denver on the occasion of the Induction of Class 33 into the College.
The Awards Committee hailed Judge Wedoff’s achievements: “His enthusiasm is infectious. No matter what the task or activity, he is always all-in. He came to the bench with little background in bankruptcy; he left the bench as a go-to resource for colleagues on all things bankruptcy, and his service to the bankruptcy system continues.” Former law clerks praise his intelligence and commitment and consider him an “incredible mentor” and “one of the most important people in my professional life,” describing him as someone who explained, analyzed and taught the law and legal writing. Those appearing before him observe that he delivered decisions with empathy and explanation, and cares that the judicial system works and good law is developed.
The Distinguished Service Award is the highest honor of the College. Criteria for selection as a Distinguished Service Award Recipient include: significant accomplishments in improving the administration of justice in the insolvency and bankruptcy field; distinguished service consistently rendered over a considerable period of time or a single outstanding achievement in a particular year; accomplishments arising from voluntary activities rather than for services rendered to a client as a paid professional; membership in the College; and distinguished in his or her institution in a manner and in matters that are consistent with the goals and purposes of the College.
Judge Wedoff was a United States Bankruptcy Judge in the Northern District of Illinois from 1987 until 2015, serving as chief judge for five years. He received his undergraduate degree in music from the University of Chicago and is an accomplished pianist. Judge Wedoff received his doctor of laws from the University of Chicago Law School in 1975. Upon graduation from law school, he joined Jenner & Block, becoming a shareholder in 1981, and remained at the firm until he was sworn in as a bankruptcy judge. He arguably became best known in legal circles for presiding over the successful chapter 11 reorganization of United Airlines, which is headquartered in Chicago. However, he also particularly distinguished himself in the many consumer bankruptcy matters over which he presided.
Inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy in 2001, Judge Wedoff
remains an active member and has served on the 7th
Circuit Admissions Council and spoken on national and 7th
Circuit panels. Judge Wedoff’s work with the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) has been longstanding and extensive, serving as its chair, president, secretary, board member, vice president of communications and information technology, and in other capacities. One of Judge Wedoff’s enduring legacies is his work on the ABI’s Consumer Bankruptcy Law Reform Commission; he was a driving force behind its creation and the excellent work the Commission put forth. He also founded and led for many years ABI’s namesake Hon. Eugene R. Wedoff Seventh Circuit Consumer Bankruptcy Conference.
Also active in the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, Judge Wedoff has served as President, member of the Board of Governors, associate editor of NCBJ’s American Bankruptcy Law Journal, and in other capacities. He is also a conferee of the National Bankruptcy Conference, an organization of nationally recognized scholars and experts in the bankruptcy field, and has frequently lectured and published on insolvency matters.
Judge Wedoff has received a variety of awards, including (i) the NCBJ Excellence in Education Award in 1995, (ii) an ABI Special Award for Work on Consumer Bankruptcy Legislation in 1998, and (iii) the ABI Judge William Norton, Jr. Judicial Excellence Award in 2016.
Judge Wedoff served as a member of the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules for ten years, four of which as chair. During that time, the Committee responded to one of the most significant overhauls of the Bankruptcy Code since it was enacted in 1978 – the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. He also served on the Federal Judicial Center’s bankruptcy judges education committee for six years, and contributed to the Center’s in-person and video programs throughout his career.
Since stepping down from the bench, Judge Wedoff has pursued a pro bono appellate practice, representing debtors in bankruptcy appeals. Recognizing that many issues in bankruptcy are not clarified by the appellate courts due to the expense of bringing appeals, he has taken on numerous cases involving issues such as the discharge of student loan debt; the appropriateness of holding a debtor’s vehicle post-petition for the debtor’s failure to pay pre-petition traffic fines; and whether contributions a debtor makes in a 401(k) plan can be used to reduce the disposable income that a chapter 13 plan must pay unsecured claims.
It is with great pride and gratitude that the College adds Judge Wedoff to the list of outstanding bankruptcy practitioners and judges to whom it has presented its most prestigious award.