By: Bud Stephen Tayman
In May, 2021, we were recording our Zoom presentation for our most recent seminars. The subject was either tax sales or creditor remedies. I don’t recall which it was. We did both. And they had followed many others before them. There was Robert, sitting in the room he always used, in front of a wall covered with lots of football helmets from lots of different teams and at least one votive candle, as he stated as a matter of fact that he “hadn’t worn suit pants in a year or so… .” We all knew what that meant. We were used to this in the pandemic. A pandemic which we also knew would one day go away.
It may seem odd to think of that image at this time. But what is the right thing to think at this time. At the same time, it is also very appropriate to think about that as we think of Robert. That image showed us another part of who Robert was. What he was made of. Perhaps why he did what he did. And why he did it the way he did. Those are the things that we remember most about him. That’s why we cannot stop thinking of Robert now. When I think of Robert, various things come to mind. But none more than the simple description: The spirit of cooperation. Co operation. Working together to achieve an end. Maybe through compromise, but not necessarily. Definitely through the simple act of operating together as one. That was the Robert that I knew.
Robert came on the scene in Maryland just under 5 years ago to the day. He was appointed as a standing Chapter 13 Trustee here on October 1, 2016. He was the new guy on the block, but you never knew that. He simply got here, got appointed, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work. With his Chapter 13 cases, he was as much a part of the case as the debtor and the creditor. While that may seem axiomatic, it is not. He worked the case the same as if he were either the debtor or the creditor. The point is – there was a case, it needed to get from point A to Point B, and he was going to do what he had to do to help it get there. Period. The odd part is that along the way, all sides were generally fairly happy. Yes there are exceptions to that. How could there not be. But those were the exceptions, not the rule. Not with a Robert Thomas case.
To me, the reason Robert’s Chapter 13 trusteeship functioned that way was due to his vast bankruptcy experience as both a bankruptcy practitioner representing both debtors and creditors and as a former Chapter 7 Trustee. He never left that experience at the door. It dictated how he approached his professional obligations. He knew that each of those cases was really comprised of dreams, feelings, emotions, and goals, and often competing ones at that. Robert reflected the balance that bankruptcy strives to produce. He epitomized the mission statement of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland which states: “Promoting social and economic order by reconciling the opportunity of debtors to a fresh start with the right of creditors to be paid.”
In this way, Robert was an integral part of the Maryland consumer bankruptcy community from day one. He was never a stranger. And it seemed like we knew him forever. In fact, he was never the new guy. It never felt that way. And it went much too fast.
Robert leaves behind a legacy of transparency, fair dealing, companionship, and Partnership.
Our hearts cry out to his wife and children who have suffered a devastating loss that our bankruptcy community’s loss can never equal.
Everyone who had the pleasure to meet Robert benefitted from his being here. That no doubt applies to Maryland consumer bankruptcy practice and all that goes with it.