Experienced Bankruptcy Lawyer Becomes Erie’s New Bankruptcy Judge

June 6, 2023

The Appeals Court has appointed John Melaragno, a 51-year-old attorney from Erie, to fill the vacancy created when Thomas P. Agresti, 71, retired on February 10. Melaragno will be at the Perry Square complex of U.S. courthouses.

Key Points

  • Since the 1860s, Erie has had its own referee or judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
  • Erie ran the risk of losing the position due to the declining caseload and the retirement of Judge Thomas P. Agresti.
  • However, Judge John Melaragno was appointed to fill the position, and he has been practicing law since 1997.

An Erie attorney who has handled thousands of bankruptcy cases since the late 1990s will be able to rule on bankruptcy cases from the bench for the rest of his career.

John C. Melaragno, who began rehearsing in Erie in 1997, has been named the new adjudicator for the Erie Division of U.S. Chapter 11 Court for the Western Area of Pennsylvania. He takes over for Thomas P. Agresti, 72, who retired from his position as a federal bankruptcy judge for Erie on February 10 after 19 years.

“I’m anticipating serving the occupants of northwestern Pennsylvania as Erie’s next chapter 11 appointed authority,” Melaragno said.

Melaragno, 50, alluded to Agresti and Agresti’s ancestor as chapter 11 adjudicator for Erie, the late Warren W. Bentz.

Melaragno stated, “I know that I have big shoes to fill following in the footsteps of Judge Agresti and Judge Bentz, and I hope to continue the excellent work that they have done and continue the well-established legacy of the Erie Bankruptcy Court.” “I hope to continue the well-established legacy of the Erie Bankruptcy Court.”

Melaragno will be based at a government town hall in Erie

The appointed authorities of the third U.S. Circuit Court of Requests, situated in Philadelphia, designated Melaragno following proposals from a legitimacy choice board. The Circuit Court judges named Melaragno on Feb. 16, yet his arrangement became official last week after he was informed that he had passed the necessary FBI record verification.

According to Melaragno and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Melaragno will be sworn in on June 12 in the bankruptcy courtroom at the federal courthouse complex on Perry Square in Erie.

There is no set retirement age for bankruptcy judges, who serve 14-year terms that can be renewed. By regulation, the compensation for Chapter 11 appointed authorities in 2023 is $213,992, or 92% of the $232,600 pay for government locale judges.

Melaragno, like Agresti, will have offices in the federal courthouse complex on Perry Square. He will hear cases from Erie and Pittsburgh, where the Western District of Pennsylvania is located. It is anticipated that Melaragno’s caseload will be divided similarly to Agresti’s.

Seventy-five percent of Agresti’s cases came from Erie and nine other northwestern Pennsylvania counties in the Erie Division of the United States Bankruptcy Court: Warren, Crawford, McKean, Venango, Forest, Elk, Jefferson, Clarion, and Mercer are the other counties. The Western District and other locations in Pittsburgh were the starting points for Agresti’s other cases.

An appellate panel of bankruptcy judges from another district or federal district judges hears appeals of bankruptcy judges’ decisions. Not at all like liquidation judges, whom circuit judges designate, government region judges, circuit judges, and High Court judges are named by the president, affirmed by the Senate, and delegated forever.

Melaragno will be one of four bankruptcy judges in the Western District of Pennsylvania. Erie was at risk of losing its bankruptcy judgeship. Pittsburgh is home to the remaining three: Gregory L. Taddonio, Chief Judge, and Jeffrey A. Deller and Carlota Bohm, Judges.

Since Congress established federal bankruptcy judgeships in 1978, Melaragno will be the fourth judge appointed to the Erie Division of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Prior to that, bankruptcy cases in Erie were overseen by referees appointed by the court and dated back to the 1860s.

William Washabaugh served as the first bankruptcy judge in Erie from 1978 to 1985. Succeeding him was Bentz, who began in 1985, resigned in 1999, and kept on hearing cases on a review premise until 2009. Washabaugh passed away in 1988 and Bentz in 2014.

The third U.S. Circuit Court of Requests chose Agresti as liquidation judge in October 2003. In April 2004, he took the oath of office.

Chapter 11 filings in the Western Area of Pennsylvania have dropped essentially since the pandemic, as per court measurements. When Agresti retired, the trend posed a threat to the vacant bankruptcy judgeship in Erie.

Agresti and lawmakers from the federal government worked hard to fill the seat. They stated that they anticipated an increase in bankruptcy filings and that Erie requires a bankruptcy judge to prevent bankruptcy litigants from traveling to Pittsburgh for hearings.

Michael A. Chagares, the chief judge for the 3rd Circuit, was also in favor of filling the vacancy. The entire 3rd Circuit concurred, and in September, the procedure for scheduling an appointment began.

Melaragno has dealt with great many insolvency cases as a legal administrator

Melaragno, an accomplice in the firm of Melaragno, Placidi and Parini, has a lot of involvement with liquidation case. His appointment as judge coincides with his resignation from the company.

Melaragno had a private practice that focused on representing clients in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and since 2004, he had been on a panel of trustees in the Western District of Pennsylvania who was in charge of how Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases were handled. Chapter 7 Debtors are required to liquidate their assets in order to pay their creditors.

Melaragno interviewed debtors and liquidated their assets as a Chapter 7 trustee, with the bankruptcy judges’ final approval. In about 6,000 cases, he served as a Chapter 7 trustee.

Additionally, Melaragno was appointed as a trustee in three Chapter 11 cases, in which debtors reorganize to gradually pay creditors. The telemarketing company Creditron Financial Corp., based in Erie and formerly known as Telatron Marketing Group Inc., filed for bankruptcy in 2008, making it one of the three cases.

As a legal administrator, Melaragno assumed control over the administration of Creditron after it petitioned for Section

  1. In 2012, the company was sold in bankruptcy court.

In the Creditron bankruptcy case, Agresti was the bankruptcy judge who approved Melaragno’s Chapter 11 trusteeship. Additionally, Agresti was in charge of many of Melaragno’s other cases.

“He is a great choice.” Agresti referred to Melaragno. He will honorably and distinguishedly serve the people of the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Erie Division.”

Melaragno began his legal career with an interest in patent law. He and his wife, Cammy, have three children. They live in Fairview. He has also specialized in personal injury cases as an attorney.

Case from Chapter 11: Meadville restaurant goes from expanding to declaring bankruptcy in 1997. He went to law school at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University. He has a four year college education in mechanical designing from Gannon College and moved on from Church Private academy, likewise in Erie, in 1990.

According to the biography that can be found on the website of his law firm, Melaragno began his legal career with the intention of specializing in patent law due to his background in engineering.

According to the biography, “However, after briefly clerking as a patent lawyer, he found he did not enjoy the work.” After that, John moved into general practice before eventually concentrating on bankruptcy and personal injury law.

Melaragno’s “well-rounded and broad-based background” in the law outside of bankruptcy, according to Agresti, is a benefit. He stated that the experience will provide Melaragno with a variety of viewpoints when he hears bankruptcy cases.

Source – goerie

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