10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
Robert Faris: Two of the bankruptcy judge's most difficult decisions in these cases involved removing former Hawaiian CEO John Adams and awarding Hawaiian trustee Joshua Gotbaum a success fee far lower than what was requested.
Judge piloting local carriers through bankruptcies
ONE DAY JUST before a Hawaiian Airlines bankruptcy hearing, an attorney not associated with the case stepped up to the microphone to be heard on a brief procedural issue. He gazed around the room, saw scores of lawyers waiting their turn on the airline case and said something along the lines of feeling like a small fish in a big pond.
Through the end of the year, the Star-Bulletin will recognize 10 who changed Hawaii this year. Some were controversial, others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference.
"How do you think I feel?" Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris quickly responded.
Nearly three years and two airline bankruptcies later, that verdict is in. Faris has taken on complex cases involving the state's two largest airlines and led them through bankruptcy proceedings during the most tumultuous time ever for Hawaii's aviation industry.
"I think he's done an excellent job as a bankruptcy judge," said Tom Roesser, a bankruptcy attorney for Carlsmith Ball LLP who appeared before Faris as the local counsel for Hawaiian Airlines' trustee. "I think we're lucky to have a judge as talented as him. He learned things very quickly about the airline business."
Faris was appointed a bankruptcy judge in January 2002 to replace retired Judge Lloyd King and took over the following month. In March 2003 he was presented with his first of two overlapping airline bankruptcy cases. He made probably one of his toughest decisions in May 2003 when he ordered Hawaiian Air's then-chairman and chief executive, John Adams, removed for putting the interests of the company's shareholders, including Adams and his affiliates, ahead of the airline's creditors. Faris made another tough decision last month when he slashed an $8 million success fee requested by Hawaiian Airlines trustee Joshua Gotbaum to $250,000.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2001
Judge Robert Faris kept Aloha and Hawaiian flying high, overseeing the bankruptcies of Hawaii's two biggest airlines.
Even before Hawaiian emerged in June from its 26-month bankruptcy, rival Aloha Airlines was knocking on Faris' door. Aloha filed for Chapter 11 on Dec. 30, 2004, making Faris' job doubly tough. In some respects, though, it might have been harder had Faris not had to consider some of the same issues with Hawaiian.
Through it all, the 47-year-old Faris, who received his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley, has demonstrated a quick wit from the bench as well as the ability to comprehend difficult issues.
"When he has to make a hard decision, win or lose, he gives you a good reason for the decisions he's reached, which is always helpful," Roesser said. "He has a really good temperament for a judge. He always tries to be fair to everyone, listens to all the arguments and takes everything into consideration."