History of the

States Association
of Bankruptcy Attorneys


In early 1991, Ron DelVento, Chief Counsel AAG Texas got a call from John F. Mares, New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department. John proposed and planned a bankruptcy/taxation seminar in Santa Fe in the fall of 1992 where the first States'/Bankruptcy Taxation Seminar was held at the La Posada Hotel in Santa Fe in September 1992. There was a small conference room and maybe 35 folks in attendance from a handful of states. Some of the attendees at the very first conference included:

  • Tracy Essig, Section Chief Counsel Bankruptcy & Collection Enforcement Section AZ AAG
  • John Akin and Ron Dotta, California Franchise Tax Board
  • Randy Weller, Deputy Attorney General from Wilmington Delaware
  • Dale Baker from the Iowa Department of Revenue Finance
  • Karen Cordry from NAAG
  • Jim Caldwell, Assistant General Counsel Oklahoma Tax Commission
  • Jim Newbold, Illinois AAG
  • And a smattering of folks from revenue, taxation, and AG Offices from around the country.

The goal of the conference was to share information and experiences, to develop a collaborative network of informed state attorneys and to assist one another in multi-state bankruptcy cases.

The first conference was a huge success. The second States'  Bankruptcy/Taxation Seminar was held on September 15 & 16, 1993, at the El Dorado Hotel in Santa Fe. We needed a bigger venue given the interest sparked by the first seminar. This time, about 75 - 80 people were in attendance.

The movement had started and word spread. Interest was growing. The Third Annual States' Taxation and Bankruptcy Conference (SABA had not been born yet) was held at the Hotel Santa Fe on October 31 and November 1, 1994 - our first Halloween bankruptcy conference. John Mares had left the New Mexico Taxation & Revenue Department and was replaced by his Don Harris, the newly designated Manager of the Bankruptcy Unit in that agency. Bankruptcy Judges Leif Clark (Western District of Texas) and Polly Higdon (District of Oregon) attended, along with soon-to-be regular presenters Tracy Essig, Jim Newbold and Joan Pilver. Judge Higdon at the time was Vice-Chair of the American Bankruptcy Institute's Taxation Committee and spoke about tax claims in Chapter 13 cases and the burden of persuasion in bankruptcy tax litigation. It was at this conference that Karen Cordry began her annual presentation on sovereign immunity issues in bankruptcy. The luncheon at our third conference was devoted to honoring John Mares as one of the founding fathers of this seminar.

By the time of our Fourth Conference, (again held at the Hotel Santa Fe) in September 1995, the ad hoc group of organizers had settled on the name States' Association of Bankruptcy Attorneys (SABA). The conference had now evolved to 2 days, ending on what has become the traditional government lawyers round table as a final topic discussion. Joining us as future regular conference presenters were Lynn Butler Texas AAG, Tracy Essig (Arizona Attorney General's Office), Renee Jordan (Arizona Department of Revenue), Steve Munier (Massachusetts Attorney General's Office) and Kathy Ayres, Tennessee AG's Office.

The initial board of directors consisted of John Akin, Kathy Ayers, Lynn Butler, Ron DelVento, Tracy Essig, Don Harris, Meg Holland, Onnie Martinez, Zack Mosner, and Jim Newbold.

The following year was noteworthy. The SABA conference was coordinated with the National Bankruptcy Review Commission's public hearing on government issues which was held at the capitol building in Santa Fe. Convincing the NBRC to hold one of their public hearings in cooperation with SABA's annual meeting was a coup. Several research papers written by SABA members were presented to the Commission and filed in the Congressional Record. One such paper presented the results of a joint FTA - SABA survey on state bankruptcy statistics with the assistance of the Federation of Tax Administrators. At SABA's request, FTA sent a survey to the primary tax and revenue agencies in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City. The results of that survey were compiled and presented as a SABA working paper to the Commission to highlight the fact that the States collectively were major creditors in bankruptcy with tax claims exceeding $3.6 billion and revenues exceeding $234 million annually from bankruptcy cases.

Because of the growing awareness of SABA on a national level, the involvement of Jim Shepard as one of the NBRC Commissioners and Jim's familiarity with our group, it was not coincidental that both Mark Browning and Joan Pilver were asked to be on the NBRC's Tax Advisory Panel, the only two State Assistant Attorney Generals in the country to be asked. Of course the work of the Tax Advisory Panel led to the identification of important tax issues affecting not just the federal government but states as well and resulted in the adoption by Congress of many of their recommendations.

No doubt having the NBRC Commission hold one of its public hearings in Santa Fe specifically timed with the annual SABA meeting is one of our history's highlights and added to the growing reputation of the organization as a group devoted to promoting the education of state and local government attorneys as well as personnel in state revenue and taxation departments in the area of bankruptcy and state tax laws. The conference grew each successive year in both attendance and national reputation.

From such humble beginnings and the shared ideas of a few, the annual conference (now presented in conjunction with NAAG's Government Attorneys Training and Bankruptcy) is the premier conference to attend for tax and revenue department staff and attorneys who represent them.



States Association of Bankruptcy Attorneys
P. O. Box 262, Albuqueruqe, New Mexico 87103-0262

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