The Bankruptcy Committee of the Monroe County Bar Association has a tradition of gathering for a lunch celebration before the holidays. This year, at their Dec. 21 luncheon, the group also used the occasion to thank the Hon. John C. Ninfo II for his service as he retires from the bench at the end of 2011.
To commemorate Judge Ninfo’s 20 years of service with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York, Louis A. Ryen presented a portrait of the judge that will remain at the courthouse in appreciation of his professional guidance.
MCBA Bankruptcy Committee Chair Kevin Bambury opened the presentation, noting that bankruptcy is a difficult area of law to practice, adding, “Judge Ninfo made me feel better about being a bankruptcy attorney.” Bambury introduced several others who shared their remarks about the judge.
George M. Reiber, who worked with Judge Ninfo prior to his appointment to the bench, talked a bit about the way Judge Ninfo provided a positive influence on his career. He also shared comments about the national impact of Judge Ninfo’s years on the bench. The Credit Abuse Resistance Education program, started by Judge Ninfo in 2002, has become nationally recognized, “with the American Bankruptcy Institute taking over stewardship of the CARE program in anticipation of the judge’s retirement. The National Bankruptcy Bar considers this [Western District, Rochester] one of ‘the’ bankruptcy courts,” Reiber said, attributing the court’s professional reputation to Judge Ninfo’s leadership.
Assistant U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee Kathleen Schmitt spoke of a letter Judge Ninfo sent to her as she was making the transition from Washington, D.C. to Rochester, describing it as one of many instances where the judge showed her and others attorneys “unbelievable courtesy.”
Bankruptcy Court Clerk Paul R. Warren, who splits his time between the Western District bankruptcy courts in Buffalo and Rochester, enumerated several significant accomplishments over the past decade, referring to the “transformation” of the court. Electronic filings, restructuring and retooling the clerk’s office, guiding the court through changes in the law, and the CARE program were among the specifics noted.
Looking forward, Peter Scribner’s remarks focused on Judge Ninfo’s current and future contributions to the theater and performing arts. Judge Ninfo and his wife Judith Ranaletta are both active supporters of the Rochester Academy of Performing Arts and the New York State Lyric Theatre.
Reflecting back to his early days in practice, Bill S. Thomas noted that he and then-Underberg & Kessler attorney Ninfo began handling bankruptcy cases under the 1898 Bankruptcy Act, when no bankruptcy reporters captured opinions, and oral discussions of precedent were the norm. Punctuating his remarks with humor, there was no doubt that Thomas prefers the well-written decisions Judge Ninfo has produced throughout his term on the bench.