Jury Trial in Bankruptcy Case – Why Not?

July 19, 2011Articles Law360

In this article, William Stassen outlines his recent bankruptcy case brought on behalf of a Chapter 7 trustee that resulted in an extremely rare trial in front of a jury in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Although juries are seldom used in bankruptcy cases, Stassen advises others to consider the process and "fear not the jury," as it resulted in a $17 million verdict in favor of their client.

Throughout the article, Stassen outlines the issues incurred when trying such cases in front of a jury and provide tips to help others who end up in a similar situation.

Because most jurors are unaware of bankruptcy jargon, the attorney suggests simplifying trial presentations so jurors can easily comprehend the issues and facts surrounding the case. He also suggests eliminating what many seminars will advise you to do during a trial -- create a theme. Instead, he says to replace bankruptcy concepts with stories that will resonate with the jury.

In the particular case, Stassen focused on the everyday creditors who were not going to be paid because fraudulent transfers were made to fund a lavish lifestyle.

In addition to building a story,he also touches on the importance of developing jury instructions and interrogatories and offers keys to selecting a solid panel of jurors.

Although he had originally opposed the jury demand, Stassen was successful in the trial and recommends other attorneys consider requesting a jury.