Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Good Fit Carlota Bohm Brings Focus and Experience to Her New Post on the Bankruptcy Bench

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Good Fit Carlota Bohm Brings Focus and Experience to Her New Post on the Bankruptcy Bench

Article excerpt

Spend three decades as a bankruptcy attorney, and you might witness a handful of big, billion-dollar reorganizations. But you'll see a whole lot more of the smaller cases: the families that max out their credit cards to pay medical expenses; the appliance store that goes under; the restaurant that can't pay its bills; the creditor who lost his investment.

Then there was the lottery millionaire who auctioned off his winnings after his brother plotted to murder him.

After nearly two decades with Houston Harbaugh P.C. as a bankruptcy attorney, long-time Pittsburgher and Argentine-born Carlota M. Bohm has arguably seen it all.

What she has seen -- and, more important, the skill and comportment with which she has handled it -- resulted in her selection to move behind the bench this year, succeeding the late M. Bruce McCullough as a federal bankruptcy judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Following her appointment last summer, Judge Bohm was sworn in Nov. 28. Her formal investiture ceremony was held at the end of December.

She begins hearing cases this month.

"I've practiced in front of the bankruptcy bench for a long time," said Judge Bohm, of Fox Chapel. "Now I'm on the other side."

By all appearances, she has been aiming for that "other side" for three decades. From the moment she received her law degree at Duquesne University in 1979, her career has been oriented toward the bankruptcy bench. She clerked for then-bankruptcy judges Bernhard Schaffler and Joseph Cosetti, then working for 11 years as a bankruptcy specialist at her own firm, Schaffler & Bohm, where she partnered with the former judge, who died in 2008.

"She's had a career that really, naturally, leads up to this position," said bankruptcy attorney Donald R. Calaiaro, who has known Judge Bohm since her law school days.

After Schaffler & Bohm closed shop in 1992, she spent the following 19 years at Houston Harbaugh. During that time, she also served as a trustee for the Western District. She had a reputation as one of the "go-to" trustees in the region, appointed to administer the most complex of bankruptcies, colleagues said last week.

"She has a tremendous amount of experience, which serves everybody well, no matter what camp you're in," be it a debtor or creditor, said Mary-Jo Rebelo, a Houston Harbaugh director. Trustees negotiate with debtors and creditors, trying to protect the interests of both as they gather an estate's assets in order to regroup or, in some cases, liquidate.

Among her more notable recent cases, Judge Bohm served as trustee in the bankruptcies of Gary Reinert Sr., the former Max & Erma's owner whose companies filed for Chapter 11 protection last year. She was also the trustee in the bankruptcy of William "Bud" Post, the Oil City man who won the lottery in 1988 for $16.2 million and filed for bankruptcy a few years later -- by which time his had wife left him, his brother had tried to kill him and his landlady had sued for much of his winnings. …

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