Harwood named state's next bankruptcy judge

Bruce A. Harwood, a veteran New Hampshire bankruptcy attorney, has been picked to sit on the bench in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manchester beginning next March, replacing retiring Judge J. Michael Deasy, who has served as the state's only bankruptcy judge.

The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals named Harwood to succeed Deasy (who has served on the bench since 1999) on Sept. 6, after the Bankruptcy Merit Selection Panel recommended him.

The panel, chaired by Circuit Judge Jeffrey Howard – a former New Hampshire attorney general – also included Chief District Judge Joseph Laplante and some of Harwood's peers in the state's bankruptcy bar — Daniel Sklar, Peter Tamposi and Eleanor Dahar.

Harwood will assume the seat at the bench after Deasy's announced retirement on March 10, 2013, and after he undergoes a routine security check by the FBI.

Harwood, who has practiced law since graduating in 1981 from Washington University Law School in St Louis, Mo., is a shareholder at the Manchester-based firm of Sheehan, Phinney Bass and Green, where he has been a bankruptcy specialist for nearly 25 years.

Some of his higher-profile cases include the Judge Fairbanks scandal (he represented Miriam Fairbanks, the judge's former wife); the Chrysler and General Motors bankruptcy (representing the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association); the Noble Trust case (representing the liquidator in what at the time was the state's biggest Ponzi scheme), General Electric Capital (representing the company in connection with liquidation of secured asset-based loans); Tufts Health Plan (representing the liquidator); FairPoint Communications (presenting New Hampshire); The Golf Club of New England (representing the club's founder and co-owner, former Gov. Craig Benson's Soft Draw Investments); and USA Springs (as local counsel for the debtor).Harwood currently is an attorney for 23 open cases before the court over which he is about to preside, including AGF Direct Gas Sales and Servicing Inc., which dates back to the beginning of this century, and USA Springs, from which he withdrew because both he and the lead counsel stated that had irreconcilable difference with their client.

Harwood has yet to submit his final application for fees in the USA Springs case.

Such situations like that happens every time an attorney is named as a judge, said George A. Vannah, clerk of the federal bankruptcy court in Manchester.

It would be up to Harwood to recuse himself when there is a conflict. If that happens, the case would be heard by a bankruptcy judge in Maine. Deasy will continue to hear cases until March 10, according to Vannah.


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