By Elizabeth Vaughan, Chapter 13 Standing Trustee for the Northern District of Ohio (Toledo)
Helen Morris, the Standing Chapter 13 and 12 Trustee for West Virginia is retiring at the end of this fiscal year.
I first met Helen over lunch at NACTT, where we chatted about a non-legal interest we both share, writing fiction. I was delighted to discover, then as now, a friend with a razor wit, a wicked sense of humor and a keen understanding of human nature. All essential tools when serving as a 13 Trustee.
Helen went to college at Marshall University, graduating in 1971. After graduation, she went to work for a local newspaper, covering the Court beat. Watching the proceedings, she got interested in the legal profession, and decided to go to Vanderbilt University Law School.
When I asked her if she’d thought she could do better than the attorneys she covered as a reporter, all I got was a laugh. But I have no doubts.
After receiving her J.D., she practiced in a small firm in Huntington, WV, in the area of bankruptcy, both Debtor and Creditor work. In 1990 she became a Chapter 7 Trustee and was appointed as the Chapter 13 Trustee in 1996.
In our talks over the years, comparing notes, venting our frustrations, Helen’s humor and biting commentary has been a source of joy and support.
At one point, I emailed Helen, and received an out of office auto-response, the usual “I will respond when I return”, except it was in 32-point type in bright pink. I laughed out loud! When I asked her about it later, she said, “I got tired of attorneys ignoring the out of office email and asking why I hadn’t responded.” I asked her if it worked, and she said, “Not completely. But I get fewer of them.”
In her downtime, Helen loves reading, knitting, cross-stitch, and writing. I asked her how she plans to spend her retirement. “Catching up on reading, knitting, cross-stitch, and writing.”
The world seldom acknowledges the people in the Bankruptcy system who spend years serving with honor, integrity, compassion, and, yes, the occasional pithy comment. There are no ticker-tape parades, no medals awarded, and no real public acknowledgment of service — service that is rendered at the highest standards of professionalism, for a community that often isn’t even aware of what we actually do. The audits endured, the millions disbursed, the stress of dealing with Bench, Bar, UST, Creditors and Debtors. But your fellow Trustees know, Helen, and wish you well as you toss the keys of the office to your successor and run from the building, cackling madly.
Elizabeth A. Vaughan was a Chapter 7 Panel Trustee and solo practitioner representing debtors, creditors and trustees from 1988 to 2007. On June 1, 2014 she was appointed as the Chapter 13 Trustee for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division. She is a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College, and The University of Toledo College of Law. In her spare time she is a USA TODAY Bestselling author of fantasy romance novels. The title of her first book, published in 2005, is Warprize.