THe EIGHT-YEAR EFFORT to settle the Penn Central bankruptcy case has generated a blizzad of official documents, and keeping track of them has become a monsterous task.
Consider these figures: More than 16,000 documents, ranging in length from one-line orders to 1,100-page reports, have been filed with the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia in the bankruptcy case alone. An additional 15,000 pages, filling 30 looseleaf binders that take almost 10 feet of shell space, have been filed in a related case to determine the value of the Penn Central's railroad properties that have been taken by the government for the Conrail system.
A 71-year-old Washington lawyer - with the help and encouragements of the courts - catalogues, indexes and and summarizes all those documents in a way that makes them useful to the hundreds of lawyers and investors who have a stake in the biggest bankruptcy case in the nation's history.
He is Newell Blair, who handled his first bankruptcy case soon after coming to Washington in 1934 to work for the New Deal's Reconstruction Finance Corp.
Whereas the U.S. court in Philadelphia files all documents in the bankruptcy case in the order they were brought in, Blair's Corporate Reorganization Reporter-Penn Central provides an up-to-date index by subject. Besides the index, the more important documents are summaries for the subscribers' convenience.
About 50 subscribers pay $3,200 a year for the reorganization reporter.
Blair's role in the valuation case, being heard by a special court in Washington established by the law that set up the Conrail system, is unique in the American judicial system.
By appointment of the court, Blair and his Special Court Reporter are responsible for notifying all the parties in the case of every document that is filed. That job usually is done by the opposing attorneys, but in this case there are so many of them they are glad to have Blair do it.
Blair sends a brief notice of every paper filed with the Special Court - usually the entry typed in the clerk's docket - to everytone who is a party in the valuation suit. The cost of sending this is borne by the lawyer filing the document, but the 40 subscribers to the Special Court Reporter get the entire document at a cost of 5 cents a page. Nonsubscribers who want specific documents can get them from Blair at 10 cents a page.
The Need for Blair's special services arises from the massive size of the Penn Central bankruptcy proceedings and the valuation suit. It is too much of a burden for individual lawyers to make enough copies of all the papers they are filling in the case to send to every other party in the case.
Now Blair has taken on two new law partners and is about to start another type publication with one of them.
Joining him in the new firm of Blair, Quenstedt & Rosenfeld are Warren D. Quenstedt, the former acting general manager of Metro who is now a transportation consultant, and James Rosenfeld, who was an editor with the Bureau of National Affairs as well as working for the Security & Exchange Commission.
Blair and Rosenfeld are planning a new publication that will contain legal documents relating to the education of the handicapped, which Blair said will be "the biggest thing for lawyers since the New Deal."
School districts all across the country want to know about U.S. and state regulations arising from a new law that gives handicapped children the right to the same education that non-handicapped children get he said.
"It's going to be a donnybrook for lawyers," said Blair, "and we expect to be the first experts in the field created by this new public law."
The D.C. Court of Appeals has turned down a petition by the D.C. Bar to let lawyers work for the U.S. Attorney's office, the public defender and the corporation counsel without taking the District of Columbia bar examination.
All three groups told the court that their ability to recruit lawyers from other places would be hurt by the new, stricter rules that require lawyers who are members of the bar in other states to have five years experience before being allowed to practice here without taking the bar exam.
Two of the nine appeals judges - Frank Q. Nebeker and Stanley S. Harris - disagreed with the majority.
Back in June, A. J. Cooper, the mayor of Prichard, Ala., and president of the National Conference of Black Mayors, was indicted in U.S. Court just days before he was scheduled to be sworn in as a member of the D.C. Bar by his old friend, Chief Judge Theodore R. Newman Jr. of the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Cooper spared Newman any possible embarrassment by not showing up for the swearing in ceremony.
That tale had a happy ending last week. Cooper, acquitted by a jury, finally was sworn in by Newman. "It was a great personal honor for me," Newman said.
Job notices: 175 persons have applied to be executive director of the D.C. Bar, replacing R. Patrick Maxwell, who is taking a job with the United Auto Workers prepaid legal plan.
Big hunt for experienced tax laywers. Five major firms across the country - including two in Washington and one in New York - are looking for a senior tax lawyer to become partners. The big problem is the firms want someone who is a tax partner already, which leaves out attorneys not working for the Internal Revenue Service, said James B. Gordon, a lawyer search consultant here.
Short takes: Judith E. McCaffrey, former senior attorney with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., has joined the Washington Office of the Philadelphia firm of Dechart, Price Rhodes.The card announcing the job change also noted that McCaffrey, the former Judith E. Minsker, was resuming her maiden name for professional purposes.