Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bankruptcy judge's advice to high school students: 'don't buy stuff you can't afford'

Bankruptcy, student loans and personal finance were the topics on the table as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Margaret M. Mann met with students at the School of International Studies at San Diego High.
Judge Mann
Her financial advice to the young adults included different examples of cases where responsible people were seeking bankruptcy protection due to a period of bad luck. Her ultimate tip on avoiding bankruptcy, however, was: “not buying stuff you can’t afford.”

In addition, she touched upon a topic especially pertinent to high school seniors: student loans. Judge Mann informed the students that educational loans are actually often the cause of a bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, current laws do not allow educational loans to be discharged or expunged during a bankruptcy proceeding. Therefore, she advised students to research and be selective about what loans they accept.

For high school students preparing to face the world post-graduation, these opportunities to talk to U.S. Magistrate Judges in an intimate setting provide a wealth of knowledge and career guidance. It is the third installment of “Inside the Courtroom,” where students are given the opportunity to ask questions to leaders of the local legal community.

Judge Mann has been on the federal bankruptcy bench since 2010, following a legal career in private practice ending as a partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton LLP. She earned her B.A. from University of Illinois in 1978, and her J.D. from the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law in 1987.

During her career in the judicial system, she has worked on cases that ranged from disputes over snakes to half-trillion dollar business bankruptcies, something that greatly fascinated the students at the School of International Studies at San Diego High.

The “Inside the Courtroom” program is a collaboration between San Diego High School of International Studies and the U.S. District Court for the District of Southern California.

Modeled after James Lipton’s television series Inside the Actors Studio, it brings leaders of San Diego's judicial community to the downtown campus to give students an idea of how they reached their career goals, experiences along the way, and what as jurists they can share with today's teenagers.

The program continues April 15 with the United States Attorney for the Southern District, Laura Duffy. Previous speakers in the series include Judge Jeffrey T. Miller and Barbara L. Major from the U.S. District Court.

For more information on the series, how to attend, or guest speaker suggestions please contact Patrick Goddard at

— Julia Gautho