Life of Janet Reno to be Celebrated at Walk

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (NJ) will serve as the Grand Marshal of Moving Day Miami, a community walk sponsored by the National Parkinson Foundation and presented by Terranova Corporation. Senator Booker is committed to raising awareness of Parkinson’s in memory of his father, who suffered from the disease

The walk will commemorate the life of Janet Reno, a longtime friend, supporter and advocate for greater Parkinson’s research funding. This event will raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease and funds to support local community grants to improve the lives of those living with PD. The walk takes place at 9 a.m. Sunday, November 13, at Miami’s Museum Park.

John W. Kozyak, Chairman of the Parkinson’s Foundation and personal friend of Reno say’s

“She set an example for people living with Parkinson’s and she set an example for so many more to live life to the fullest, to be humble and to do the right thing. I will never forget how Janet comforted me when my parents were diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She is a legend to me and many.”

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Janet Reno, First Woman to Be U.S. Attorney General, Dies At 78

Miami’s Janet Reno, the first woman to be United States attorney general, died Monday at 78 from complications connected to Parkinson’s disease.

Her eight-year tenure in that office brought some of the country’s most high-profile issues to her desk including the seizure and return of Elián González to Cuba, the capture of the Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and the 51-day Waco siege standoff in which 76 people died.

More Gladesman than Washingtonian, Reno grew up in a Miami that’s increasingly hard to find today, earning her the nickname “swamp woman.” Valedictorian at Coral Gables High School, she was raised in a house her parents built near the Florida Everglades. She would walk around barefoot surrounded by animals, peacocks and donkeys that would come in and out of the house. Living near the Everglades she learned to be independent and developed thick skin.

“That house is a symbol to me, that you can do anything you really want to if it’s the right thing to do and you put your mind to it,” said Reno in 1993.

In 1978, she was appointed state attorney for what was then Dade County and held the office through four elections. In that “wonderful and rambunctious city,” she called Miami later in her Senate confirmation hearing, she cut her teeth handling high-profile cases, including Arthur McDuffie’s.

Four Miami-Dade police officers were acquitted by an all-white jury of charges in the beating death of McDuffie, a black man, in 1980. The tension surrounding that case broke out in a full-scale three-day riot that left much of Miami’s Liberty City smoldering.


“I have lost what little faith I’ve been able to maintain in this system as of today,” said Marvin Dunn to Chanel 4 news after the announcement of the verdict. He and others in the black community blamed Reno and called for her to stand aside while an investigation of her office was conducted. She refused to leave her post despite ongoing criticisms from Dunn and others.

Today, Dunn says he admired the way she handled the case–coming in person to every community meeting he can remember during and after the riots and facing her critics.

“Janet Reno would have prosecuted her own mama if she felt she had a reason to do it. She was the most objective, tough-minded, fair-minded person I’ve ever known,” said Dunn after hearing the news of her passing.

But the backlash from the McDuffie case gave her a taste of what was to come in the other high-profile cases she oversaw.

In her 1993 confirmation hearing for U.S. attorney general she gently acknowledged the ground she was breaking – she would become the first woman to hold that office.

“I want to remember what it was like not to be able to get a job because I was a woman,” said Reno, “and do everything I can to see that Americans have equal opportunity.

Reno first challenge was an inherited problem in Waco, Texas. A religious group suspected of weapons violations and child abuse was engaged in a standoff with the FBI. Reno ordered them in after 51 days, leaving almost 90 people dead.

In 2000, Reno authorized agents to storm the Little Havana home where González was living with relatives in order to return him to his father in Cuba.

Shortly before Elián González was rescued in an inner tube in the Atlantic Ocean off Fort Lauderdale just before Thanksgiving 1999, Miami Cuban-Americans had shut down the city. Furious at the Coast Guard’s apprehension of Cuban rafters close to Miami’s shores, they blocked off the city’s major thoroughfares for an entire day.

Then Attorney General Janet Reno was all too mindful of that volatility when Elián suddenly became an international custody dispute – the little boy’s Cuban father vs. Miami Cubans who insisted he remain with relatives in Little Havana. The legal issue was clear: Under international law, Elián had to be returned to his dad in Cardenas, Cuba. But to Miami Cubans it was an apocalyptic moral issue – and a means of sticking it to their mortal enemy, Fidel Castro.

Most legal observers today believe Reno made a serious error, albeit with good intentions. In order to avoid another Miami conflagration, she decided to give the Cuban exiles their day in court. But that day turned into months – a bizarre, seven-month long debacle that became 24/7 cable news fodder and made Miami look like a rogue republic in the Everglades as the exiles refused at every turn to give Elián up.

In the end, Reno’s strategy backfired. Realizing the exiles had no intention of handing the boy over, she had to order U.S. agents into Little Havana in the middle of the night in April 2000 to seize him in a raid that sparked massive protests in Miami. The legal battle, however, would last another three months before Elián and his father could finally fly back to Cuba.

She angered both Cuban exiles – who never forgave her for the raid – and the rest of the nation and the world, which came to view Miami if not the U.S. as an international scofflaw bowing to an unhinged swing-state voter bloc. Some say national sentiment about Elián González’s case contributed to the outcome of the 2000 presidential elections, which handed a victory not to the incumbent party but to Republican George W. Bush.

With the change of administration, Reno was replaced as U.S. attorney general. She unsuccessfully ran for Florida governor in 2002, defeated by a narrow margin in the primary. She continued on the lecture circuit talking about education and the justice system.

Attorney John Hogan worked at Janet Reno’s side for nearly 20 years, at the State Attorney’s Office in Miami and later at the Justice Department. Hogan says, Reno had a straightforward approach:

“As far as how the public may react, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, so you might as well just do what you think is right and then go from there,” said Hogan.

“She didn’t act like she couldn’t do the full job; she did everything” – John Kozyak, chairmen of the Parkinson Foundation

Hogan says Reno was a meticulous litigator with a flawless memory and a penchant for to-do-lists. His favorite story about Reno’s tenure as attorney general has to do with the Parkinson’s disease that ultimately took her life; she was diagnosed in 1995.

Every Thursday, Reno had a standing invitation to reporters to come to Justice Department with any questions they wanted to ask.

“About an hour before it was supposed to start, she called me and the press secretary in and said, ‘I went to the doctor’s yesterday. I’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s,and I’m going to announce it to the country right now,” recalls Hogan. “She said, You’ve noticed my hands shaking—it’s Parkinson’s disease. And then, let’s move on.”

Hogan says the press secretary and reporters both were flabbergasted, but Janet Reno thought the country deserved to know. And she wasn’t going to let anyone tell her otherwise.

Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1995 and lived with it openly while in office, refusing to hide tremors in her hands as many others with the condition do. She would not put her hands in pockets or hold them behind her back. She refused, however, to be a spokesperson for the disease. But her normalization of Parkinson’s, people say, helped educate the public about the disease.

John Kozyak was Reno’s friend and chairman of the Parkinson’s Foundation. He said her living and continuing in her role as attorney general with Parkinson’s helped so many other struggling with the disease.

“She didn’t act like she couldn’t do the full job; she did everything,” said Kozyak, adding that she also faced criticism for this.

“You have to respect Janet Reno,” he said. “She was an amazingly bright, genius, kind, unassuming person. She was literally one of a kind and the whole country will miss her and the Parkinson’s community will probably miss her the most.”

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Harley S. Tropin Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton

By Patrick Folliard

LOOKING BACK ON A LONG and distinguished career, Harley Tropin is loath to toot his own horn. “I’m a bit shy,” he confesses. But after 25 years as a top-flight commercial litigator and champion of diversity, the founding partner of Miami-based Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton discussed with us his success in getting results, and doing it an honorable way.

Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton began as a three-attorney law firm in 1982 and has grown over the years into a 26-lawyer mid-size powerhouse known nationally for its excellent work in bet-the-company litigation, class actions, bankruptcy and massive financial frauds. Tropin and his partners John Kozyak and Chuck Throckmorton have also worked hard to ensure that theirs is a diverse firm. “It’s no news to anyone,” said Tropin matter-of-factly, “diversity is both the right thing to do and it’s good for the law firm. It’s important to have lawyers who mirror the population.”

Longtime attorneys at the firm believe it’s a lot more than business that drives Tropin. He really is about making a positive impact.

“Rather than broadcast his commitment to diversity, Harley demonstrates it by giving opportunities to diverse attorneys,” said the firm’s managing partner Detra Shaw-Wilder, (the only female African- American managing partner in Southern Florida). “From the moment I began my career here in 1994, I was welcomed. I never felt that I had to try to change who I was or try to fit into a mold. It was evident that this was a diverse environment where attorneys succeed if they are able to advance their cases in an aggressive and professional manner. That’s achievable regardless of gender or race.”

Tropin’s support of women is heralded at the firm. Shaw-Wilder continued, “He taught me how to develop business. He’s always been willing to help me land a client, advance a case forward, make the presentation for the court—whatever it took for me to succeed.”

Corali Lopez-Castro, a Koyzak Tropin & Throckmorton partner since 1998 whose practice focuses on bankruptcy and commercial litigation matters, agrees wholly: “Harley is on every short list for bet-the-company cases yet he makes time to develop those around him. When you have a mentor like that who cares, promotes you inside and out, and helps you be the best you can be, it’s hard not to succeed. Yet he remains self-effacing and takes pride in crediting others for the firm’s big successes.”

Lopez-Castro, a Cuban American who has lived in Miami most of her life, adds, “He likes to have women on his trial team. Women come with a different mindset and he values that opinion. You can talk about diversity all you want, but hiring and promoting women and minorities is what makes it real. Harley wants his firm to succeed after he’s no longer practicing law. The only way you do that is if you train, promote, and mentor that next class of diverse lawyers. Harley does that.”

In April, Tropin received the prestigious American Jewish Committee’s 2016 Judge Learned Hand Award. Named for the late judge who was noted for his significant decisions in constitutional law and anti-trust, the award honors lawyers who champion rights of the individual and the importance of democratic values in an orderly society.

Tropin grew up in the shadow of Shea Stadium in Queens, New York. He moved to Florida to attend University of Miami School of Law and never looked back. After three years at Mahoney Hadlow & Adams, Tropin and his partners left the security of a big firm to strike out on their own. “We had no money. We had new babies and more on the way. So, we were all nervous but felt the time was right.”

His practice started with trademark and counterfeiting: “Back then Miami was a hotbed of counterfeit designer apparel—Rolex watches and Gucci bags, all of those things. I represented the manufacturers. But my big break came when I was appointed by a federal judge to represent victims in a huge Ponzi scheme case for which we got a substantial recovery. That became a specialty and, in a recent $500 million Ponzi scheme involving a disgraced Fort Lauderdale lawyer, our team represented most of the defrauded investors in recovering 100 percent of their losses.”

Not long after the civil disturbance following acquittal of four Miami-Dade Police officers in the death of Arthur McDuffie, Koyzak Tropin & Throckmorton opened its doors. “It was a risky time. But we had young families and were intent on staying in Miami forever so we knew we had to address the divisiveness,” said Tropin. “We decided to build bridges between communities in a diverse city that isn’t always connected.” John Kozyak’s vision of mentoring began as a smallish lunch for African-American law students, and then grew into the Kozyak Minority Mentoring Foundation, under the leadership of Kozyak and Shaw-Wilder. Today, the foundation’s annual gathering includes 3,800 students and involves participation from 70 law firms and every law school in the state. The foundation won MCCA’s George B. Vashon Innovator Award in 2015.

Tropin is a passionate advocate for access to mental healthcare. As co-chair of the advisory board of the University of Miami Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, he strives to reach out to under-served sectors of Miami’s population. “For me, mental illness is another shade of diversity,” said Tropin. “My mom was an accomplished woman who suffered from debilitating chronic depression.

“We decided to build bridges between communities in a diverse city that isn’t always connected.”

And she suffered from the stigma of shame attached to it. I decided to be visible about this. We have a world-class facility at the University of Miami, and I wanted to help them and help address this issue.”

Tropin asked partner Lopez-Castro to join him on the advisory board. “Because Harley understands the importance of diversity and inclusiveness,” she said, “he knew that having a Hispanic presence on the board would be helpful. Mental illness spans all groups.”

Prompted by this same interest in mental healthcare, Tropin lectures at Scott Rogers’ University of Miami School of Law’s Mindfulness in Law Program. Mindfulness is about trying to be present in the moment and to acknowledge what you’re feeling without being judgmental. And the way to get there is through mediation, he explained.

“It’s no secret that many lawyers suffer from anxiety and depression, and meditation has proved a tool that helps lawyers and students to have a more productive and happier life,” Tropin adds. “It allows for a happier home, too. You don’t want to cross examine your wife. You want to be present for your child and not drift off and think about what you’re going to ask the expert the following morning.”

And while most lawyers have reacted positively, said Tropin, he does receive the odd scoffing letter. Yet he remains unfazed because he’s convinced of the benefits of mindfulness: “It’s helped me. It’s tough to get up in front of judge and jury—there’s a lot on the line for you and the client. All lawyers have concerns. This is a way to help alleviate that stress.”

Managing partner Shaw-Wilder sums up Tropin’s philosophy and impact with a memory. “In my very early days at the firm, Harley taught me a seemingly simple but lasting lesson. He told me that I had to believe 100 percent in my argument. Otherwise it’s no good. Harley always believes completely in what he’s doing, and it’s contagious. His example prompts those around him to believe too.”

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Logo for The Bankruptcy Strategist

Stepping into the Shoes of the IRS to PursueOtherwise Time-Barred Avoidance ActionsUnder Fraudulent Transfer Statutes

By Corali Lopez-Castro and David A. Samole

One of the rare legal issues in which bankruptcy practitioners usually are able to speak to clients in absolute terms to provide clear legal advice is the limitations period concerning the pursuit of avoidable transfers in bankruptcy proceedings. Section 546 of the Bankruptcy Code is clear that a trustee has two years after the order for relief to bring an avoidable transfer action. Section 548 of the Bankruptcy Code equally is clear that the trustee maypursue avoidable transfers that occurred within two years prior to the filing ofa bankruptcy petition. And Section 544(b) of the Bankruptcy Code provides thetrustee with “strong-arm” powers to avoid a transfer that is voidable “under applicable law” by a creditor holding an unsecured claim.

This means that the trustee may look to non-bankruptcy law (usually state law)and deploy any avoiding power that the trustee finds there. The most commonuse of Section 544(b) is to give the trustee a right of action under state fraudulenttransfer law. These are most often useful to the trustee because of the longerreach-back period available under state law, which generally range from three tosix years prior to the petition date.

So, for avoidable transfers that occurred outside the state law avoidable transfer period, generally the wisdom imparted to clients is that those are outside thereach of trustees and the bankruptcy court. That is, unless the Internal RevenueService is a creditor at the time of the transfer and has filed a proof of claim in thebankruptcy case. In such instances, the majority line of cases enable a trustee togo beyond the state law limitations period in order to use the IRS recovery period— which runs 10 years after the date of tax assessment — to pursue avoidabletransfers for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate.


This issue is not some drop in thebucket merely for academia to ponder its theoretical implications. Theeffect is real and should be substantial to provide immediate improveddividends to creditors in bankruptcycases, as discussed in a recent bankruptcy case from the Southern District of Florida. Practice pointers alsoare relevant to discuss in relation tothis improved creditor recovery tooland potentially increased exposurefor debtors and their transferees.

Don’t Mess with the IRS

Section 6502(a)(1) of the InternalRevenue Code provides the IRS withauthority to collect taxes for 10 yearsafter the date of tax assessment. So,while the IRS may be owed money prior to the date of assessment for agiven tax year, this provision givesthe IRS that certain time frame topursue collection after assessment.In turn, Section 6901(a) of the Internal Revenue Code enables the IRSto pursue avoidance actions againsttransferees of the taxpayer’s property, subject to the same limitationsapplicable to collection from thetaxpayer; that is, subject to the same10-year post-assessment recoveryperiod. However, in order to establish transferee liability, the IRS mustrely substantively on applicable statelaw, since Section 6901 of the IRC only provides a procedural remedy.

This means the IRS has to showthat a transfer was actively or constructively fraudulent like any othercreditor. Still, the IRS is not limitedby state statutes of limitation topursue these recovery actions. U.S.v. Summerlin, 310 U.S. 414, 416(1940) (Summerlin) (holding it iswell settled that the United Statesis not bound by state statutes oflimitation whether the United States.

Corali Lopez-Castro and David A.Samole are partners at Kozyak Tropin &Throckmorton in Miami. Theyhandle local and national corporate bankruptcy litigation matters. Reachthem at clc@kttlaw.com and das@kttlaw.com, respectively.

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