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SCBLA Annual Seminar

Monday, March 25, 2024

The annual seminar of the South Carolina Bankruptcy Law Association was held this past weekend at Jekyll Island.  Congratulations to the board and the seminar committee for a successful seminar.  During the seminar, two members of the bar – and the Court – were recognized with awards and the Court extends congratulations to these honorees.
Hon. Helen E. Burris received the J. Bratton Davis Professionalism Award. This award is named in honor of J. Bratton Davis, this district’s first bankruptcy judge under the Bankruptcy Code. The award honors unimpeachable integrity, devotion to legal scholarship, civility to all, unfailing professionalism in all ways, and impressive contributions and improvements to the legal profession. Judge Burris was nominated by sixteen members of the bar who recognized her embodiment of these characteristics through her prior experience in private practice, as a chapter 13 trustee, and while serving on the bench.  Upon graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill in 1989, Judge Burris served as a law clerk to the Hon. Marvin R. Wooten in Charlotte.  She is licensed in North and South Carolina and previously represented debtors, a chapter 7 trustee, and creditors at large and small firms until her appointment as a standing chapter 13 trustee.  In 2006, Judge Burris was appointed to the bench and has served as the Court’s Chief Judge since March 2020.  She has presided over approximately 50,000 bankruptcy cases and more than 1,100 adversary proceedings.  Since her appointment, Judge Burris has been heavily involved with the Judicial Conference and Administrative Office of the United States Courts by serving on various national committees, including a member and chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Audits and Administrative Office Accountability, the 2020 Ad Hoc Strategic Planning Group for the Judicial Conference, and the Next Generation of CM/ECF Committee.  She was also a member of the Board of Governors for the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges and has served locally as a member and former president of the South Carolina Bankruptcy Law Association, former member and chair of the South Carolina Supreme Court Bankruptcy and Debtor-Creditor Specialization Advisory Board, and a member of the J. Bratton Davis Bankruptcy American Inn of Court. 

Hon. John E. Waites was honored with the William E.S. Robinson Public Service Award. This honor is awarded to a member who has rendered distinguished public service to the legal profession and the community, as was exemplified by Billy Robinson.  Those nominating Judge Waites reflected on his career dedicated to public service and his many contributions to the area of indigent services and the promotion of pro bono efforts by the bankruptcy bar.  From his appointment in 1994 to his retirement in 2022, Judge Waites expanded the Court’s pro bono program, served on the South Carolina Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and the SC Bar Pro Bono Committee, and founded the South Carolina Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) Program and the J. Bratton Davis Inn of Court. He also was instrumental in the development of several other public service programs at the Court, including the Pro Se Debtor Assistance Program, a bankruptcy-focused Ask-A-Lawyer program, and bankruptcy legal clinics.  Judge Waites has received recognition and awards from various entities, including the Pro Bono Service Award from South Carolina Legal Services (2013), a Special Pro Bono Award from the SC Bar (2013), the J. Bratton Davis Professionalism Award from the South Carolina Bankruptcy Law Association (2014), the Matthew J. Perry, Jr. Civility Award from the Richland County Bar Association (2015), the Pro Bono Service Award from the Legal Services Corporation of the U.S. (2016), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National CARE Financial Literacy Program (2019), and the Order of the Palmetto from Governor McMaster (2022).
Congratulations to Judge Burris and Judge Waites for these well-deserved honors and their lasting impacts on the bankruptcy bar, the public, and the Court.