UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
United States Courthouse
299 E. Broward Blvd.Courtroom: 301 / Chambers: Room 303
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Grace V. Figueroa
Judge Russin does not engage in any kind of communication with parties before the Court except on the record and through documents filed with the Clerk and orders entered by the court. Bankruptcy Rule 9003 prohibits such ex parte communication with the Judge by any party in interest regarding any matter affecting a case. Failure to comply with this rule may result in sanctions.
DO NOT write letters to, e-mail, or call Judge Russin, his law clerks, the Courtroom Deputy (except as otherwise provided by these rules and guidelines), or any member of the Clerk's office. Each letter or e-mail addressed to Judge Russin or his law clerks or otherwise sent to the Court and identifying a particular case or proceeding, may at the Court's discretion be placed on the relevant docket and made part of the public record. Any such letter or e-mail may be set for hearing.
Regardless of whether the Judge is presiding, while at the courthouse (including during meetings of creditors under section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code) counsel and other persons should conduct themselves professionally, with appropriate respect for the Court, members of the Clerk’s Office, trustees, counsel to the United States Trustee, courthouse staff, opposing counsel, litigants, and witnesses. The Court’s Guidelines for Courtroom Decorum, which are posted on the Court’s website, will be strictly enforced.
Mobile phones may not be used to make phone calls in the courtroom at any time when court is in session. Court is in session at any time the proceedings are being recorded even if the Judge is not presiding.
Personal conversations are to be conducted outside the courtroom when court is in session. Mobile phones and any other device that makes noise must be turned off, or placed in vibrate mode, while court is in session.
The Local Rules, Administrative Orders, and Local Forms are posted on the Court’s website. All counsel and pro se parties appearing before the Court shall be familiar with these documents as updated and amended from time to time.
If you are an individual appearing without a lawyer (pro se), you should review the Court’s Pro Se web page. Pro se parties must comply with the Bankruptcy Code, the Bankruptcy Rules, the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Local Rules, Administrative Orders, and Local Forms of this Court. Copies of the Local Rules are available on the Court’s website.
The Judge, the Judge’s law clerks, and members of the Clerk’s Office are not permitted to provide legal advice of any kind. DO NOT contact the Judge, the Judge’s law clerks, or any person in the Clerk’s Office other than the Courtroom Deputy for any purpose. You may contact the Courtroom Deputy solely to address scheduling concerns or to arrange a telephonic appearance when permitted by the Court.
If you file a complaint, motion, or objection with the Court, it must clearly explain what you want the Judge to do and why. You must also send a copy of any such document and, if you are the movant, a copy of any notice of hearing issued by the Court, to all people and companies entitled to receive them under the applicable rules.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MAY ANY PARTICIPANT RECORD OR BROADCAST THE PROCEEDINGS CONDUCTED BY THE BANKRUPTCY COURT
The Court encourages telephonic appearances for routine, non-evidentiary matters. There is no geographic limitation regarding who may appear by telephone. The ability to appear by telephone is a privilege and not a right and such privilege may be withdrawn by the Court at any time without prior notice.
Most uncontested Chapter 13 confirmation hearings and many uncontested Chapter 13 motions are handled by the Chapter 13 Trustee without the Judge present in the courtroom. These matters are presented to the Court by agreed or uncontested proposed orders. However, even if the Judge is not present, court is in session and the proceedings are recorded. All rules regarding courtroom decorum apply, including dress code and use of mobile phones. Please be advised that the Court often listens to the uncontested Chapter 13 docket from Chambers.
Starting on August 2, 2021, Chapter 13 calendars will be held by Zoom. Please refer to the Judge’s guidelines and procedures in the “Hearings” section.
Proposed Orders. “Chapter 13 orders heard on the consent calendar must state in the proposed order that the matter was heard on the consent calendar and that no one objected to the motion/objection.”
Timing for Proposed Orders. Local Rule 5005-1(G)(1)(c) provides that a proposed order must be submitted within 7 days of the date of the hearing and that if a party fails to timely submit a proposed order, the court may dismiss the underlying matter for failure to prosecute. Because of the volume of hearings, the Court typically allows the parties up to 14 days to submit orders decided on the Chapter 13 consent calendar.
Even with this additional time, the Court routinely receives late-submitted orders, which causes issues regarding whether the relief is stale or still appropriate and can delay the administration of the case. In the future, Judge Russin may deny without prejudice any matters for which the parties do not timely submit their orders and will additionally prohibit counsel from charging their clients for re-filing the same or a substantially similar motion.
1. REMOTE APPEARANCES FOR HYBRID HEARINGS. Although the Court will conduct the hearing in person, any interested party may choose to attend the hearing remotely using the services of Zoom Video Communications, Inc. ("Zoom"), which permits remote participation by video or by telephone. Zoom will provide a password-protected link for the appropriate Zoom conference to those who register to participate in accordance with paragraph 2 below and who have been approved by the Court. All participants must conduct a pre-hearing test of Zoom using the same equipment that they intend to use during the hearing.
2. REGISTRATION FOR REMOTE APPEARANCE. To participate in the hearing remotely via Zoom (whether by video or by telephone), you must register in advance no later than 3:00 p.m., one business day before the date of the hearing, except for hearings set on an emergency basis, in which case participants must register at least one hour before the hearing.
Participants can register for the hearing by clicking on or manually entering the web address provided in the notice of hearing generated by the Court or provided in the Court order scheduling the hearing. To register for Judge Russin’s recurring Zoom meetings for weekly motion calendars, monthly adversary proceeding status conferences and pretrial conferences, and monthly chapter 13 hearing calendars, register using the following link: https://www.zoomgov.com/meeting/register/vJItcOqurD4qHUbwAimENeAkZ7QUKGhcZ7k.
If more than one matter is set for hearing at the same date and time, participants appearing remotely via Zoom need register only once for that date, but must provide all relevant case numbers, case names and clients in the registration process. If you register more than once for the same hearing date, your last registration must include data for all relevant cases and clients, even if previously entered. Any data previously entered for that hearing date will be replaced.
3. RECORDING PROHIBITED; OFFICIAL RECORD. No person may record the proceedings from any location by any means. The audio recording created and maintained by the Court will be the sole basis for creation of a transcript that constitutes the official record of the hearing.
4. REMOTE WITNESS TESTIMONY. In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 43(a) (made applicable by Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9017), for good cause and in compelling circumstances, a witness may be permitted to testify by contemporaneous transmission from a location other than the courtroom. If the Court finds good cause and compelling circumstances to permit remote witness testimony in an evidentiary hearing, the Court will administer the oath to each remote witness and the witness testimony will have the same effect and be binding upon each remote witness in the same manner as if such remote witness was sworn in by the Court in person in open court. As additional safeguards, the Court will require that: (a) if requested, each remote witness must disclose the city, state and country, and the type of place (such as home or office), where she or he is located while testifying; (b) no other person is permitted to be in the same room with any remote witness unless specifically authorized by the Court; (c) each remote witness may only have with her or him those documents also provided to the Court for consideration in connection with the matter(s) set for hearing and no other documents or data unless specifically authorized by the Court; and (d) no person may communicate with a witness during his or her testimony, except by direct examination or cross-examination on the record, unless specifically authorized by the Court.
5. RESPONSIBILITY FOR REMOTE WITNESSES. The party sponsoring each remote witness is responsible for ensuring that the remote witness has registered with Zoom and obtained the password-protected link to the Zoom conference, the remote witness has obtained all exhibits before the hearing, and the remote witness has the technological capability to participate in the hearing via Zoom.
6. CONDUCT DURING HEARING. To avoid distractions during the hearing, all participants must mute electronic devices and disable all audible alerts. Although conducted using remote conferencing technology, the hearing is a court proceeding and the formalities of the courtroom must be observed. Counsel and witnesses must dress appropriately, exercise civility, and otherwise conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the dignity of the Court.
Persons participating in a hearing remotely must: (a) state their name each time they speak; (b) speak audibly, clearly, and slowly; and (c) mute their microphone when they are not talking. Failure to do so may result in an incomplete or inaccurate record of the proceedings.
When appearing remotely, you are connected directly with the sound system in the courtroom and will be able to hear all activity before the Court just as if you were in the courtroom. As with appearances in person, you must wait for the Judge to call the case, at which point she or he will request appearances and direct the manner in which the hearing proceeds. At the conclusion of your matter, you may disconnect from the Zoom meeting without requesting to be excused.
At the initial hearing on each contested matter, the Judge will consider whether an evidentiary or additional non-evidentiary hearing is required. Except for uncontested offers of proof necessary to support preliminary findings of fact, and except as provided in the following paragraph, matters on the motion calendar will be treated as preliminary, non-evidentiary hearings. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Court may consider evidence at any hearing in the Court's discretion.
Whether noticed as evidentiary hearings, all hearings on motions for (a) authority to use or to prohibit use of cash collateral, (b) approval of post-petition financing, (c) payment of pre-petition wages, or (d) payment of pre-petition claims, are considered evidentiary hearings. In each case, the movant must be prepared to make an offer of proof consistent with the requirements of the Bankruptcy Code, the Bankruptcy Rules, the Local Rules, and relevant law.
Emergency matters are those where direct, immediate, and substantial harm will occur to the interest of a person or entity, to the bankruptcy estate, or to the debtor’s ability to reorganize, if the parties are not able to obtain immediate relief. The movant must comply with Local Rule 9075-1. The movant must call the Courtroom Deputy to advise the Court that an emergency motion has been filed. Once filed, an emergency motion will be reviewed by the Judge to determine if it should be treated as an emergency. The Courtroom Deputy will set the hearing as directed by the Judge. Upon being informed of the date and time of hearing, the moving party must immediately provide notice to opposing counsel and other parties in interest by a method or methods aimed at providing actual notice of the scheduled hearing (this may include one or more of telephone, fax, e-mail, and overnight mail), and the moving party must file a certificate of service. Failure to provide immediate notice to opposing counsel and other parties in interest and file a certificate of service may result in denial of the relief requested and/or sanctions.
The Court encourages the parties to use the electronic presentation facilities available in the courtroom. These include: a lectern camera system that allows viewing of documentary evidence by the Court, other counsel, witnesses, and the gallery, without the need for multiple paper copies and the ability to present documentary, video, and audio evidence via laptop plugged directly into the court’s audio-video system. The display system includes touch-screen technology that allows counsel and other parties to annotate documents on the display using a finger or stylus to “write” on the screen. Counsel wishing to use these systems may contact the Courtroom Deputy, at (954) 769-5774, in advance of the scheduled hearing to arrange a time to become familiar with the systems subject to courtroom and staff availability.
Except for certain motions that may be self-calendared, Judge Russin’s calendar is set and maintained exclusively by the Courtroom Deputy. DO NOT call Judge Russin’s law clerks about calendar matters.
Hearing dates for filed motions are assigned by the Court. The movant will receive a notice of hearing. It is the responsibility of the movant to serve the notice of hearing on other parties and file an appropriate certificate of service as required by Local Rule 2002-1(F). Failure to timely serve a notice of hearing and file the required certificate of service may result in denial of the relief requested and/or sanctions.
Except in unusual circumstances, contested matters are set for non-evidentiary hearing on a weekly motion calendar. At the first hearing, the Judge determines whether an evidentiary or additional non-evidentiary hearing is required.
Continuances of matters must be requested by filing a motion for continuance. If all relevant parties agree to the requested continuance, the motion should be designated as agreed and an agreed proposed order may be submitted. If all relevant parties do not agree, the motion for continuance may be set for hearing.
Judge Russin graduated from George Washington University Law School (J.D. 1988) having won the Jacob Burns Prize for outstanding appellate advocacy and the Van Vleck Advanced Moot Court Competition. Judge Russin also interned for the Honorable Lawrence S. Margolis, United States Court of Federal Claims Judge during law school. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University where he majored in History and graduated with departmental honors (B.A., 1985). Judge Russin practiced in the areas of Bankruptcy and Commercial Litigation from 1988 to 2020, when the Eleventh Circuit appointed him to serve as a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of Florida.
Judge Russin was a co-founder and shareholder of Meland Russin & Budwick, P.A. since 1993. He routinely represented corporate debtors, secured lenders, creditors’ committees and trustees in insolvency proceedings as well as asset purchasers in bankruptcy. He also counseled clients through out-of-court workouts and private debt restructuring. Judge Russin was also a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator. Throughout his career, he has written and lectured extensively on insolvency and commercial litigation topics. Judge Russin is also a past president of the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida.
All parties are expected to be familiar with, and prepare all orders consistent with, the Court’s Guidelines for Preparing, Submitting and Serving Orders.
When submitting amended orders please add a footnote after the word “amended” and provide a brief sentence indicating the purpose of the amendment. For example, if there is a change to paragraph 1 of the order state in the footnote “Revisions made to paragraph 1”.
Titles of orders must specify whether the order grants, denies, or grants in part and denies in part the relief sought in the underlying motion.
Competing orders may be submitted as directed by the Court, or where opposing counsel disagree on a proposed order’s language. Competing orders must be submitted via email in Word format to Judge Russin’s Chambers email address. This email address is strictly for competing orders and must not be used under any other circumstances, unless specifically instructed to do so. The email accompanying a competing order must identify the material differences between the competing orders and, to the extent reasonably practicable, include a separate redline comparison showing the differences between the competing orders.
“Chapter 13 orders heard on the consent calendar must state in the proposed order that the matter was heard on the consent calendar and that no one objected to the motion/objection.”