2020 Michelle Mendez Serviam Award Recipients honored in New Orleans

Photo caption: 2020 Awardees, L to R: Awardees Professor John M. Czarnetzky, Elizabeth G. Smith, and H. Kent Aguillard shown with Judge Harlin D. Hale

The Center for American and International Law (CAIL) recognized the 2020 Michelle Mendez Serviam Award recipients at its Fifth Circuit Bankruptcy Bench-Bar Conference in New Orleans last month. The 2020 Michelle Mendez Serviam Award was presented to H. Kent Aguillard from Louisiana, Professor John Czarnetzky from Mississippi, and Elizabeth G. Smith from Texas.

The awards are presented by CAIL in conjunction with the bi-annual Fifth Circuit Bankruptcy Bench-Bar Conference. The awardees are bankruptcy professionals recognized for demonstrating persistently exceptional contributions to others in the bankruptcy profession and community. These contributions may be in the form of professional leadership, pro bono work, bar activities, community contributions, and other criteria that demonstrate extraordinary service to others.

Serviam in Latin means “I will serve.” The Michelle Mendez Serviam award was created in 2015 in recognition of the life and work of Michelle Mendez.  A Partner in the Dallas firm of Conley, Rosenberg, Mendez & Brenneise, Michelle served as Chair of the Bankruptcy Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, Chair of the Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section of the Dallas Bar Association, and Chair of the Research Fellows of The Center for American and International Law. She was also a co-founder of the Fifth Circuit Bankruptcy Bench-Bar Conference.  A recipient of the Robert B. Wilson Distinguished Service Award from the Bankruptcy Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, Michelle devoted herself to her profession, her family and her community.

Michelle Mendez was a force of nature who was fiercely devoted to her family, her friends, her profession, and her community.

We are pleased to honor Michelle’s legacy by presenting the Michelle Mendez Serviam Awards at CAIL’s bi-annual Conference.


H. Kent Aguillard’s office has been practicing law for 40 years, primarily in bankruptcy, commercial litigation, and bankruptcy-related litigation. He holds national and state bankruptcy specialist certifications.  Mr. Aguillard is the past chairman of the Committee on Bankruptcy Specialization of the Louisiana State Bar Association and was a contributing editor for the ABI Committee on Commercial Fraud Task Force. He is a member of the LSBA House of Delegates, and past president of the St. Landry Parish Bar Association and the South Louisiana Bankruptcy Bar Association. One of the tenets he lives by is “There is no right way to do the wrong thing.”


John M. Czarnetzky is a Professor of Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, where he has taught bankruptcy and commercial law since 1994. He has published a number of articles, and is a frequent lecturer on those areas. Professor Czarnetzky will be inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy Law this spring. Professor Czarnetzky has been recognized as the outstanding law professor at Ole Miss several times. In 2016, he received the Elsie Hood Award for the outstanding professor at the University of Mississippi. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 


Elizabeth G. Smith represents creditors in Bankruptcy and State Court matters. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Federal Bar Association, and since 1992 has been on the Texas Supreme Court’s District 10 Unauthorized Practice of Law Sub-Committee. Ms. Smith is past chair of the State Bar’s Moneywise Program in San Antonio, helped organize a pro bono bankruptcy clinic for the local bar association and law school, and served as Fifth Circuit Vice President/Texas for the Federal Bar Association. She is President-Elect of the Trinity University Women’s Club. A San Antonio native, she is grateful to practice in her hometown.