People: James B. Sowka, Partner

Photo of James B. Sowka, Partner

James B. Sowka

Partner

Chicago
Direct: (312) 460-5325
Fax: (312) 460-7325
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Mr. Sowka is a partner in the Chicago office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.  He concentrates his practice in the areas of bankruptcy law, creditor rights, real estate transactions, and litigation.  Mr. Sowka is the co-lead of Seyfarth Shaw’s Distressed Situations Resource Team.
 
Mr. Sowka represents secured and unsecured creditors, bankruptcy trustees, receivers, asset purchasers, debtors, and avoidance action defendants among others.  His bankruptcy litigation experience includes motions for conversion and dismissal of chapter 7 and 11 cases, motions for the appointment of chapter 11 trustees, plan confirmation hearings, contested cash collateral hearings, bankruptcy trustee elections, claim objections, fraudulent transfer and preference actions, and denial of discharge and dischargeability actions.  Mr. Sowka also has significate experience with distressed asset transactions and involuntary bankruptcy proceedings.
 
In addition, Mr. Sowka renders advice on structuring non-distressed corporate and real estate transactions with respect to intercreditor agreements, guarantees, and other bankruptcy issues.  Mr. Sowka further provides reasoned legal opinions on substantive non-consolidation for structured finance real estate transactions.  Finally, Mr. Sowka advises employers as to the impact of bankruptcy filings on retirement and benefit plans, non-compete agreements, protection of trade secrets, and other matters.
 
Mr. Sowka has earned a Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review rating of AV Preeminent®.  He is a member of the SeyfarthLean initiative for landlord-tenant issues in retail bankruptcy cases.  SeyfarthLean adopts Lean Six Sigma methodologies through application of technology and a process-driven methodology that involves mapping the delivery of services in order to identify efficiencies and to better predict costs for our clients.  In 2016, he became co-chair of the Bankruptcy Court Liaison Committee for the Northern District of Illinois, which fosters communication and information sharing between the local bench and bar, as well as education programs in the district.
 
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Sowka worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the U.S. Trustee in Chicago, Illinois and Miami, Florida where he gained significant experience with the investigation and prosecution of bankruptcy fraud and abuse, including Ponzi schemes, bust-outs, and identity theft.
 
Mr. Sowka is also involved in the local community.  From 2012 to 2016, he served as treasurer and director for Friends of Pulaski, a not-for-profit organization that supports Pulaski International School - a public elementary school in Chicago offering an International Baccalaureate based curriculum.
 
 
Mr. Sowka is a partner in the Chicago office of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.  He concentrates his practice in the areas of bankruptcy law, creditor rights, real estate transactions, and litigation.  Mr. Sowka is the co-lead of Seyfarth Shaw’s Distressed Situations Resource Team.
 
Mr. Sowka represents secured and unsecured creditors, bankruptcy trustees, receivers, asset purchasers, debtors, and avoidance action defendants among others.  His bankruptcy litigation experience includes motions for conversion and dismissal of chapter 7 and 11 cases, motions for the appointment of chapter 11 trustees, plan confirmation hearings, contested cash collateral hearings, bankruptcy trustee elections, claim objections, fraudulent transfer and preference actions, and denial of discharge and dischargeability actions.  Mr. Sowka also has significate experience with distressed asset transactions and involuntary bankruptcy proceedings.
 
In addition, Mr. Sowka renders advice on structuring non-distressed corporate and real estate transactions with respect to intercreditor agreements, guarantees, and other bankruptcy issues.  Mr. Sowka further provides reasoned legal opinions on substantive non-consolidation for structured finance real estate transactions.  Finally, Mr. Sowka advises employers as to the impact of bankruptcy filings on retirement and benefit plans, non-compete agreements, protection of trade secrets, and other matters.
 
Mr. Sowka has earned a Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review rating of AV Preeminent®.  He is a member of the SeyfarthLean initiative for landlord-tenant issues in retail bankruptcy cases.  SeyfarthLean adopts Lean Six Sigma methodologies through application of technology and a process-driven methodology that involves mapping the delivery of services in order to identify efficiencies and to better predict costs for our clients.  In 2016, he became co-chair of the Bankruptcy Court Liaison Committee for the Northern District of Illinois, which fosters communication and information sharing between the local bench and bar, as well as education programs in the district.
 
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Sowka worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the U.S. Trustee in Chicago, Illinois and Miami, Florida where he gained significant experience with the investigation and prosecution of bankruptcy fraud and abuse, including Ponzi schemes, bust-outs, and identity theft.
 
Mr. Sowka is also involved in the local community.  From 2012 to 2016, he served as treasurer and director for Friends of Pulaski, a not-for-profit organization that supports Pulaski International School - a public elementary school in Chicago offering an International Baccalaureate based curriculum.
 
 

Education

  • J.D., University of Arizona College of Law (2004)
  • B.A., University of Illinois (1998) 
    Phi Kappa Phi; College Honors

Admissions

  • Florida
  • Illinois

Courts

  • United States Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
  • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida

Affiliations

Bankruptcy Court Liaison Committee, Northern District of Illinois

  • Co-Chair (2016-2017)
  • Committee Member (2015-2017)

Friends of Pulaski

  • Officer and Director (2012-2016)

Chicago Bar Association

  • Director, Young Lawyers Section (2011-2013)
  • Co-Chair, Young Lawyers Section Bankruptcy Committee (2008-2011)
National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges - Next Generation Program (2011)
 

American Bankruptcy Institute (2008-present)

Representative Engagements

  • Representation of successful bidder at auction sale of real property leases in chapter 11 bankruptcy case for national retailer.
  • Representation of unsecured creditors in chapter 7 dischargeability action based on RICO judgment exceeding $400 million.  Obtained favorable verdict on summary judgment.
  • Representation of chapter 11 trustee with respect to operation and reorganization of commercial real estate holding company with ownership interests in more than 50 non-debtor entities and land trusts holding title to more than 70 parcels of real property.  Negotiated settlements with various insiders resulting in recovery of more than $8 million in disputed pre-petition transfers of cash and other assets.
  • Representation of chapter 7 trustee in wind-down of Ponzi scheme involving technology company with more than $100 million in claims.  Assisted in obtaining recoveries in excess of $80 million through prosecution and settlement of fraudulent transfer and breach of fiduciary duty actions and the sale of assets.
  • Representation of global restaurant equipment manufacturer in state court receivership action initiated against restaurant equipment distribution company.  Obtained allowance of claims and favorable resolution of objections to sale of company.
  • Representation of large, commercial bank in individual chapter 11 bankruptcy case involving over $100 million in real estate related claims.  Successfully obtained appointment of chapter 11 trustee and favorable settlement involving over $16.5 million in disputed state and federal income tax refunds.
  • Representation of national insurance company in individual chapter 7 bankruptcy.  In case of first impression, obtained denial of debtor’s claimed exemption in non-qualified ERISA Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan.
  • Representation of petitioning creditors in involuntary chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding against defunct regional grocery store chain which resulted in entry of order for relief and commencement of chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
  • Representation of large, commercial bank in $26 million single asset real estate bankruptcy.  Prevailed in objecting to confirmation of debtor’s chapter 11 plan following two-day trial; later secured confirmation of joint chapter 11 plan of liquidation with debtor, and obtained order recharacterizing $17.5 million insider claim as equity and successfully defended appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals regarding same.
  • Representation of chapter 7 trustee in wind-down of operating logistics and warehouse company with two facilities totaling over 615,000 sq. ft. in space, liquidation of inventory and personal property, and sale of real property.
  • Representation of national insurance company in chapter 11 asbestos bankruptcy case involving contested plan confirmation which resulted in multimillion dollar settlement agreement.
  • Representation of secured lender in $40 million single asset real estate bankruptcy.  Obtained confirmation of joint plan of liquidation with chapter 11 trustee and sale of real property.

Presentations

  • “Section 546(e): Rough Waters in the Safe Harbor,” Chicago Bar Association Bankruptcy & Reorganization Committee (November 17, 2016)
  • “Non-Consolidation Opinions in Real Estate Transactions” Webinar, presented by Seyfarth Shaw LLP (April 26, 2016)
  • “Bankruptcy Basics from the Experts - 2016:  The Creditor’s Perspective - How to Maximize Recoveries” Illinois State Bar Association (April 14, 2016)
  • “Acquisitions of Distressed Businesses” Webinar, presented by Seyfarth Shaw LLP (October 27, 2015)
  • “Professional Ethics in Bankruptcy” Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Joint Bankruptcy & Professional Responsibility Committee Meeting (April 18, 2014)
  • "Commercial Real Estate in Distress" Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Bankruptcy Seminar (October 7, 2010)
  • "Mortgage Fraud," presented by the Office of the United States Trustee, Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Bankruptcy Committee Meeting (2008)