Douglas W. Neway is the new Chapter 13 Trustee in Jacksonville. Are you kidding me?

11 Oct Douglas W. Neway is the new Chapter 13 Trustee in Jacksonville. Are you kidding me?

Douglas Neway, Chapter 13 Trustee, Jacksonville, FloridaOn October 1, 2007, Douglas W. Neway, Esquire became the unlikely replacement for the “retiring” Mamie L. Davis.  Ms. Davis had been the Chapter 13 Trustee for the Jacksonville Division for 14 years, following Jerry Funk’s appointment to Bankruptcy Judge so many years ago.

Before explaining why Doug Neway is such a surprising replacement for Ms. Davis, one must understand the recent history of the position. The Chapter 13 Trustee is under the general supervision of the bankruptcy court, but under the direct supervision of the Office of the United States Trustee. The U.S. Trustee has devolved to view debtors and their lawyers as the enemy. Especially over the last decade, it has seemingly been the goal of the U.S.T.’s office to block as many debtors as possible from bankruptcy protection.

Since the Democrats have retaken control of Capitol Hill, the United States Trustee has come under attack, including threats of massive budget cuts. Recently (10/02/2007), the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law held a hearing entitled, “United States Trustee Program: Watchdog or Attack Dog?” In his answer to this question, the highly respected A. Jay Cristol, a United States Bankruptcy Judge in the Southern District of Florida, told the congressmen, “[T]he U.S. Trustee is not one dog. It is a pack of dogs.” This has long been the sentiment of debtor’s attorneys nationwide.

So, is the U.S.T. buckling under the public pressure? Maybe. As proof, meet Doug Neway, your new Chapter 13 Trustee in Jacksonville. Prior to accepting his new gig, he was a partner in one of the nation’s largest national consumer bankruptcy firms. He represented debtors in consumer bankruptcy cases. This fact alone makes his recent appointment shocking to say the least.

Mr. Neway also served as Chairman of the Orange County Bankruptcy Bar Association, the Central Florida Bankruptcy Law Association and the Orlando Division’s Bankruptcy Judicial Liaison Committee. He was the Florida State Chairman of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and is currently a member of the Florida Bar’s Bankruptcy/UCC Committee and the Statewide Bankruptcy Judicial Liaison Committee. Recently, Mr. Neway was instrumental in drafting the new Florida Wildcard exemption, which provides an additional $4,000 protection for every Florida resident who does not own a home.

The truth of the matter is that consumers need the protection of the U.S.T.’s office from the illegal and abusive practices of default mortgage servicers, debt buyers, collection agencies and non-lawyer bankruptcy petition preparers. Especially in Chapter 13, the deck is stacked in favor of the creditor, and more should be done to recognize creditor abuses. At the very least, Mr. Neway’s experience as a debtor’s attorney brings a new level of awareness to the problems facing debtors.

Questions linger, and only time will tell. Is Doug Neway a shift in the U.S.T.’s philosophy, or is he a token? Will he bring a balanced approach to his new position, or will the Dark Side arrest his soul? This debtor’s attorney welcomes the change and looks forward to working with Mr. Neway.

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Chip Parker is the managing partner of Parker & DuFresne, P.A., where he represents Northeast Florida businesses and consumers facing bankruptcy, and homeowners facing foreclosure. His firm files more homeowners in the Mortgage Modification Mediation Program than any other law firm in Northeast Florida. Parker is the recipient of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid's prestigious Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service. Mr. Parker is an active member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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