Login | November 26, 2020

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Tiiara N.A. Patton profiled

Legal News Reporter

Published: November 6, 2020

She has served as a law clerk to several U.S. bankruptcy judges in Ohio, New Jersey and New York, worked for the United States Department of Justice, Office of the U.S. Trustee and represented clients as a private practitioner. Now, Tiiara N.A. Patton is using her extensive experience to adjudicate matters as a judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
Judge Patton, who sits in Youngstown, took the bench on Aug. 17 after being appointed to a 14-year term by Chief Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Kay Woods in 2018.
In an email, Judge Cole stated, “Judge Patton has a very impressive professional background and has excelled throughout her career, from her days as a law clerk and time in private practice to her tenure as a trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice. She is lauded as a person of great character and integrity, and her calm yet assuring presence will make her a great addition to the bench in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio.”
“I am very excited about my new role, which I truly believe I am qualified for,” said Judge Patton. “I know the subject matter and I’m both honored and humbled to serve this community.
“I am still new to the bench, so I’m still learning and breaking into the position,” she said.
“I’ve spent much of my career in the public sector and I look forward to helping those who come before my court get through what is likely one of the most trying times of their lives.”
Born and raised in Cleveland, Judge Patton developed an interest in the law at a young age.
“As a kid, I loved to ask questions and naively believed that being inquisitive would make me a good lawyer,” said Judge Patton. “I also watched a lot of lawyer shows.
“I believed that lawyers did very important work,” she said. “So, I decided that being a lawyer was going to be my career.
“In high school, I enrolled in a magnet school, Martin Luther King, Jr. Law and Public Service High School in Cleveland that focused on law and public service,” she said. “We took courses that related to law and government and were required to complete internships. As a result, I got the chance to intern at places that exposed me to the careers I was interested in. I think that’s what solidified my desire to be a lawyer.”
Judge Patton received her bachelor’s degree in English education from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
“When I started college, I thought I would take some time off between college and law school and teach in an urban school district,” said Judge Patton. “After student-teaching, I decided that being a lawyer was my passion and I no longer wanted to delay going to law school.”
When she started at The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law, Judge Patton wanted to be a criminal defense or education law attorney, but after taking a bankruptcy course she said she was hooked.
“I fell in love with the practice area,” Judge Patton said. “It’s complicated and interesting and touches on so many other areas of the law.
“When practicing bankruptcy law, you definitely need a working knowledge of other areas of law that will likely impact your case.”
After obtaining her juris doctorate in 2001, she began working as a judicial law clerk for New Jersey Superior Court Judge Burrell Ives Humphreys (now retired), later moving to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark, where she served as a swing judicial law clerk, rotating between U.S. Bankruptcy judges Donald Steckroth (retired), Morris Stern (deceased) and Novalyn Winfield (retired).
Prior to returning to Ohio, she was a judicial law clerk to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Cornelius Blackshear (Ret.), who served in the Southern District of New York, and worked as an associate in the bankruptcy and restructuring practice group of the now-defunct New York-based international law firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. 
In Cleveland, she took on the role of judicial law clerk to now-retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Randolph Baxter in the Northern District of Ohio, before returning to private practice as an associate at Calfee, Halter & Griswold.
From 2011 until her recent appointment to the bench, Judge Patton worked for the Department of Justice, Office of the U.S. Trustee in both the Wilmington, Delaware and Cleveland offices, where she prosecuted fraud and abuse in bankruptcy cases.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jessica E. Price Smith, who serves in the Northern District of Ohio said she was “pleased” to learn of Judge Patton’s appointment.
“When you review her credentials, it is clear that Judge Patton was the right selection for our court,” said Judge Price Smith, who is located in Cleveland. “She was an outstanding attorney in both private practice and with the U.S. Trustee’s Office. I think Youngstown will be well served by her appointment.
“Judge Patton clerked for retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Cornelius Blackshear of the Southern District of New York, the first African American on that court. She and I also both clerked for retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Randolph Baxter, the first African American judge to serve on this court,” she said.
“Now, the Northern District of Ohio Bankruptcy Court has two African American women serving as judges, who were once law clerks. This demonstrates the important role that judges have in diversifying the courts by ensuring that in choosing qualified law clerks, they have a diverse staff.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio is closed to the public through Oct. 30, 2020, so Judge Patton has been conducting hearings telephonically.
“At least one of my colleagues, Judge Jessica Price Smith, has conducted a trial virtually via a video conference platform,” said Judge Patton.
“Regardless of whether an individual appears in-person or over the phone, my goal is to resolve the legal issues presented to the court and provide resolutions to matters that require court intervention,” she said. “I think many people associate shame with filing bankruptcy and I want to make it clear that there is nothing shameful about the process.
“The system provides individuals and small businesses with the opportunity to get a fresh start and get back on their feet and I believe there is no shame in utilizing the bankruptcy process for its intended purpose, provided those who avail themselves of the system comply fully with all applicable laws.”
In addition to her role on the bench, Judge Patton said she hopes to partner with the local bar association and practitioners to develop a financial literacy program in the public schools.
“I think it’s important to empower youth through financial education and to prepare them for financial success by sharing my life experience and teaching them about budgeting and how to avoid certain pitfalls of debt,” said Judge Patton. “I learned a lot of this information on my own through some financial missteps early on in my life.
“I would like to assist local young folks in avoiding going down that path by supplementing their curriculum to include a financial literacy component, with the assistance of volunteers consisting of lawyers and other professionals.
“As a judge, I believe I have a responsibility to give back to the community I serve, and the financial literacy project is one of the many items on my agenda.”