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Records of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges

January 05, 2024

Exhibit created for an annual conference showcasing the NCBJ's long history.
Exhibit created for an annual conference showcasing the NCBJ’s long history.

The National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (NCBJ) was founded in 1926 to provide continuing legal education to judges, lawyers, and other practitioners. The NCBJ records have been reprocessed and now document all 97 years of the organization’s history.

Exhibit created for an annual conference showcasing Judges Round Tables hosted by the NCBJ in the 1990s. The National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges (NCBJ) was founded in 1926 to provide continuing legal education to judges, lawyers, and other practitioners. Originally known as the National Association of Referees in Bankruptcy, membership has been restricted to bankruptcy referees/judges and has provided them with an opportunity to use their expertise to improve the practice of bankruptcy law in the United States.

The NCBJ has worked to foster collegiality and scholarship in the bankruptcy community since its inception. The organization has hosted annual educational conferences and published a peer-reviewed journal now known as The American Bankruptcy Law Journal. In 1990, the NCBJ created the Endowment for Education to fund important bankruptcy research and education. In 2000, they supported the creation of the National Bankruptcy Archives at the Biddle Law Library to help preserve the history of bankruptcy law in the United States. And in 2005, the NCBJ created the Blackshear Presidential Fellowship to promote diversity in the legal profession. All these efforts have grown NCBJ membership, and today the organization consists of over 300 bankruptcy judges who represent all 94 federal judicial districts.

Publications produced by the NCBJ throughout its history.

The archives of the NCBJ were first donated to the National Bankruptcy Archives in the early 2000s. The collection has recently been reprocessed to incorporate additional material that was added over the past twenty years, and it now spans 1926 to 2023, capturing all 97 years of the NCBJ’s history. Some highlights from the expanded collection include:

- Reports, correspondence, bill drafts, and statements created by the NCBJ Legislative Committee from the early 1970s to 2020. This material documents the long history of NCBJ members working to improve bankruptcy legislation, such as their substantial work on revising the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 and passing judges’ salary legislation in the 1990s.

NCBJ members being presented with a framed copy of House Bill 3660 in appreciation for their role in enacting the legislation. From left:...

- Material from the NCBJ Annual Conferences, such as programs, candid photographs, written proceedings from presentations in the mid-1900s, audio of presentations from the early 2000s, and a wide variety of swag including over 30 totes sporting the NCBJ logo.

Totes created for the NCBJ annual conferences over the years.

- Records documenting the formation and continued work of the Endowment for Education. The records consist of both administrative files, which include board meeting minutes and reports, as well as project files which document the progress of Endowment funded projects. These files contain material from a wide range of projects from the early 1990s: drafts of the Women in Bankruptcy History Project, reports from the 9th Circuit Gender Bias Task Force, videotapes from the American Bankruptcy Institute State Court Judges Education Program, and more videotapes from the Public Education Project “Dealing with Debt.”

Program from the 1932 NCBJ annual conference next to the program created 90 years later for their 2022 conference.

- A growing collection of publications that have been created by the NCBJ including copies of The American Bankruptcy Law Journal, The Conference News, The Silver Whistle, and a 50-year history book created for the conference’s anniversary in 1976. 

- Memorials written by the NCBJ to commemorate members who have passed away. Multiple folders full of these tributes are included in the collection and range from 1987 to 2022.

- Photographs that were taken at NCBJ events including board meetings, joint seminars held with the Federal Judicial Center and Southern Bankruptcy Law Institute, and annual conferences. Select digitized photographs can be accessed in the Biddle Archives and Special Collections Department digital archive.

Images from a computer training seminar hosted by the Federal Judicial Center and the NCBJ in October 2000.

- 4.0 gigabytes of digital material that has been transferred from computer disks and flash drives to secure, archival storage. This material includes electronic versions of the organization’s newsletter called The Conference News, minutes from board meetings, committee reports, and tribute videos that were shown at annual conferences.

Mary Davis Scott (NCBJ) and Dean Michael A. Fitts (Penn Law) at the National Bankruptcy Archives Signing Ceremony, 2000 October.

Additional correspondence, minutes, reports, photographs, and other material will continue to be added to the NCBJ records as it is donated to the National Bankruptcy Archives in the upcoming years. A complete history of the organization and its ongoing work can be found on the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges website.

For more information about the items featured above or about the entire NCBJ collection, view the complete guide to the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges records online, and to access the collection in person or to ask any additional questions, please contact the Biddle Archives and Special Collections Department.