Introducing Your National Bankruptcy Archives

By: Diane Weiss Sigmund, United States Bankruptcy Judge (retired)

Did you know that:

  • the first national convention of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (“NACBA”) was held in conjunction with the 1992 annual meeting of the Chapter 13 trustees to boost its own attendance and  65 people participated?
  • to solicit new members, NACBA relied on the national data base of consumer attorneys provided to it by VISA because there was no list of national consumer attorneys?
  • NACBA joined with labor, civil rights, and women’s groups to form a powerful coalition that staved off the passage of the 1997 creditor bankruptcy bill for eight years, and then watched its membership explode as it became a prime educational vehicle for training consumer lawyers about the 2005 law?

The history of this important debtor’s rights organization comes to life in preeminent consumer lawyer Henry Sommer’s 3-½ hour oral history.

The Sommer interview is but one example of the interesting history that is preserved at the National Bankruptcy Archives (“NBA”), a national repository of archival materials relating to the history of debtor-creditor relations, bankruptcy and the reorganization of debt.

Formed in 2000 through an agreement between the University of Pennsylvania Trustees through the Biddle Law Library and the American College of Bankruptcy, the NBA has collected over 50 oral histories of important bankruptcy figures as well as many videos of educational programs of historic importance.  You can listen to the first Executive Director of the Office of United States Trustee and two United States Trustees discuss the program as it functioned during the pilot period.  You can hear Professor Lawrence P. King and Vern Countryman present a survey of Chapter 13 in 1980 shortly after this new form of relief was introduced.

These materials are all available to you on your computer or mobile devices in audio and/or video format on the NBA website .

The American College of Bankruptcy, which provides financial and material support to the Archives to enhance the collection, is encouraging those interested to participate in collecting oral histories of important bankruptcy figures to preserve these invaluable but time-sensitive stories and experiences. The NBA also welcomes the donation of significant papers and recordings.  A list of the donors of such material reveals few consumer bankruptcy practitioners. Yet a review of your publication over the last few years evidences no shortage of important issues to be memorialized.

The guidelines for taking an oral history and/or making a donation of other material to the NBA are set forth on the NBA website. Inquiries about the NBA can be addressed to Leslie O/Neill, Archivist.  If you have no contribution to make right now, I invite you to discover your National Bankruptcy Archives as a visitor.  I think you will be fascinated.


Hon. Diane Weiss Sigmund – was appointed as a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1993, serving until her retirement in 2009. She was Chief Judge from 2004-2008. Prior to 1993 she was a Partner in the law firm of Blank, Rome, Comisky & McCauley and member of its Financial Services Department. From 1997 to 2004 she was a member of the Committee on Automation and Technology of the Judicial Conference of the United States which oversaw the conversion to electronic case filing in the federal courts. She is a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy, chair of its Archives Committee and a director of its Foundation. She is a contributing editor to Collier on Bankruptcy. As a member of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, she served as Third Circuit Governor and member and chair of its Endowment for Education. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Temple University School of Law where she was Research Editor of the Temple Law Quarterly.

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