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Receiver Profile – Jeffrey Golden: Enriched by Mentors

RN: Let’s start at the beginning: where did you grow up, and give me a one or two line description of your family?

JG: I was born in Milwaukee and raised in San Diego. My two brothers and both parents have advanced degrees in engineering and education, leaving me as the least educated member of the family.

RN: Where did you attend college and law school?

JG: I received my undergraduate degree from UCSD’s Revelle College in 1984, and graduated from USC Law School in 1987.

RN: What stands out as memorable in law school?

JG: I most enjoyed Federal Courts with Erwin Chemerinsky and Bankruptcy with George Treister. In my Federal Courts class, I received the Judge Barry Russell Federal Practice Award, which he graciously continues to give out to law school students in conjunction with the Federal Bar Association.

RN: For whom did you clerk?

JG: I clerked for Bankruptcy Judges Peter M. Elliott and Calvin K. Ashland, both of whom also sat on the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. Judge Elliott was dying of cancer, and taught me a lot about life as well as the law. He impressed me not only with his photographic memory and incredible understanding of the law, but also with how he dealt with people, especially family and others who depended on him, after he was diagnosed as terminal. His character and intelligence continue to inspire me.

RN: What influenced you to pursue a career in insolvency?

JG: Judge Elliott’s mentoring. But I have a deep appreciation for the diversity of an insolvency practice; how it incorporates nonbankruptcy areas of the law, and invites and rewards creativity and strategic thinking. Also, because the Bankruptcy Code is relatively new, the case law interpreting and applying the Code is relatively sparse. This creates opportunities for innovation, debate and consensual resolution of disputes.

RN: Give me a quick thumbnail of your legal career?

JG: After clerking for Judge Elliot and Judge Ashland, then I joined Buchalter, Nemer, Fields & Younger, where I became a shareholder. We co-founded Albert Weiland & Golden in 1995, which later became Weiland Golden Smiley Wang Ekvall & Strok LLP when Theodor Albert was appointed to the bench in 2005. For 17 years I have worked as a Bankruptcy Trustee and Examiner in Los Angeles and Orange County, and a state and federal court receiver. I am an Adjunct Professor of Law teaching Bankruptcy at UCI Law School, and an Expert Witness for the US Department of Justice in criminal bankruptcy matters. Over the years I’ve been President of the Orange County Bankruptcy Forum, Chair of the OCBA Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section, Co-Chair of the Ninth Circuit Lawyer Representatives, on the committee to review and recommend Superior Court Judges to the Governor, and on the bench-bar committees for long term planning and the development of the new local rules. For the past seven years, I’ve served with Eric Israel as Co-Editor in Chief of the California Bankruptcy Journal. I am also a mediator and am under consideration for the State Bar committee allocating victim’s restitution funds regarding attorney misconduct.

RN:I heard you received the Judge Peter M. Elliott Award. Tell me about that.

JG: The Judge Peter M. Elliott Award is bestowed on one practitioner each year in recognition of scholarship, ethics and service to the community. Receiving the Award in 2008 was especially meaningful for me because of my relationship with Judge Elliot. I like to think that if he knew me now, he would be proud of how I have tried to honor his legacy.

RN: Who do you consider your mentors – people who have influenced you along the way?

JG: During law school, Erwin Chemerinsky and George Treister; during my clerkships, Judge Peter Elliott and Judge Calvin Ashland, and in private practice, Judge Theodor Albert, with whom I was a partner for 12 years.

RN: Tell me about your firm.

JG: As the largest bankruptcy boutique in Orange County, our practice is heavily concentrated on Chapter 11 reorganizations, private workouts, and trustee and receivership work, but we also have a strong corporate and real property and litigation practice. We are devoted to our clients and passionate about our work. That commitment is Page 16 • Spring 2013 Receiver Profile Jeff Golden: Enriched by Mentors Continued on page 17… Jeffrey I. Golden is a partner at the firm of Weiland, Golden, Smiley, Wang Ekvall & Strok, LLP in Costa Mesa. reflected in the results we achieve for our clients. We emphasize efficient collaboration and function well as a team. One of our lawyers became a bankruptcy judge, one became the U.S. Trustee for the Central District, and one joined the academia at Chapman Law School, but with those exceptions, we have had very little attrition.

RN: What do you consider your best accomplishment to date?

JG: The creation of our firm has been huge. It has served as a vehicle and platform for so many lawyers to do so much for the community and the bar, as well as our clients. I am proud of how our attorneys contribute to the community. One of my partners founded the pro bono bankruptcy clinic of the OCBA, before becoming its 2012 President, and roughly one-third of the OCBF Presidents were from our firm. I am truly grateful to the partners who have encouraged and inspired me since our inception: Michael Weiland, Evan Smiley, Lei Lei Wang Ekvall and Phil Strok. Their dedication, collaboration, wisdom and integrity have shaped our culture, built our reputation, and made the firm the wonderful place to practice that it is today.

RN: You serve as the Co-Editor of the California Bankruptcy Journal: what have you learned from this experience? JG: I have learned that it is hard to find a successor. Eric Israel, CoEditor, has been great to work with and we could not function without the support of Jeanne Sleeper and Toni Spangler. We have a prolific community, and we receive amazing articles regularly. We are proud about how often the Journals are used for research and cited in briefs and opinions throughout the country.

RN: You are just completing an assignment as a Ninth Circuit Lawyer Representative with the Judicial Counsel. Tell me about this experience.

JG: As a Ninth Circuit Lawyer Representative and Co-Chair, I have had the privilege of working with all of the Central District Federal Judges to improve our judicial system. As Co-Chair, I planned educational programs and worked on a variety of special projects with both the District Court and Bankruptcy Court. I was also afforded the opportunity to work closely with Chief District Court Judge Audrey Collins. Her intellect, passion for people, the law and inclusiveness in the process was inspiring. I also was enriched by working extensively with Chief Bankruptcy Judge Vincent Zurzolo on similar issues. Judge Zurzolo was insightful, creative, a wealth of information, and very supportive.

RN: What are your passions outside of the law?

JG: My daughter Becky (19) and son Brian (14) are my passion, and I cherish my time with them along with our dog, Sparky. I enjoy my involvement with a variety of charitable causes, including SPIN (Serving People in Need), PS I Love You (helping children without parents), and Laura’s House (house for abused women), where I help with legal issues, financial planning, and fundraising, and in the past various other activities such as President of my children’s elementary school PTA. I enjoy the opportunity to help others.

RN: What hobbies do you have?

JG: I enjoy a plethora of activities and crave the diversity. For example, I enjoy skiing, golf, tennis, racquetball, sailing, theater, and going to hockey games, and would like to write a novel and compose music. Finding time to do any of these things is a completely different question.

RN: Tell me about your unusual recent birthday bash?

JG: I recently turned 50 years old and threw myself a party with a live band, a casino, and auction items to raise money and awareness for 50 diverse charities. The charities were as diverse as the pro bono legal organizations in Orange County and Los Angeles, to Make a Wish, and countless others. It was a blast with 200 people in attendance. My daughter and her friend entertained by singing “For Good” from Wicked. It was a lot of fun and helped a number of deserving charities in the process.

RN: Would you consider becoming a Bankruptcy Judge?

JG: Maybe someday. I always wanted to be a lawyer and a bankruptcy trustee and enjoy it immensely. For now, I am more than happy as a trustee, receiver and attorney.

RN: If you had it all to do over again, and knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

JG: I believe that luck is opportunity plus preparation. If you combine that with decision-making, you have success. I would continue to try to be as successful as I can be, and to use that success to help others.

RN: If we repeat this interview in fifteen years, can you describe Jeff Golden then vs. today?

JG: I want to double my accomplishments professionally and personally. I look at life past 50 as the time to leverage what you have learned to build and create more than I have before. I plan to speed up, not slow down