Obituary: Lawyer John A. Tosney, 62, was well-known bankruptcy specialist

01/29/2014 7:18 PM

01/29/2014 7:19 PM

John A. Tosney, a prominent and prolific Northern California bankruptcy lawyer, died Jan. 11 of a heart attack while vacationing in Costa Rica, his family said. He was 62.

Mr. Tosney was a recognized expert in bankruptcy law, which was his sole practice for more than 30 years. He began in 1981 with Melvyn CoBen, a leading Sacramento bankruptcy lawyer when there were few local specialists in the field.

Four years later, Mr. Tosney started his own firm. Certified by the California State Bar as a specialist in bankruptcy issues affecting consumers and small businesses, he was often interviewed on TV about changes in the law and trends in caseloads during tough economic times.

With a few partners and a large support staff over the years, he reportedly filed more than 17,000 cases and expanded the business with offices in Roseville, Sacramento, Yuba City, Fairfield and Vacaville.

“He was a hardworking man,” said his son Joshua. “He often worked seven days a week.”

Mr. Tosney was well known by filing clerks, judges and trustees at U.S. bankruptcy courts from Oregon to Modesto. He helped individuals and small-business owners seek relief by liquidating their assets under Chapter 7 or working out a repayment plan under Chapter 13 of the federal bankruptcy code.

Some clients had made unwise financial decisions – especially after real estate bubbles, when many who borrowed too much against their homes faced hard times as housing values plummeted. But many were individuals who landed in financial trouble after losing a job, getting divorced or suffering major medical problems.

“He was really great with people,” former law partner Gary Greule said. “That’s a big part of the business, working with people in a difficult time. He was really understanding and helpful.”

John Anthony Tosney was born Feb. 13, 1951, in Tokyo, where his father was stationed in the Army. His mother died when he was 12, and he grew up on military bases in Alaska and Germany before settling with his father in Santa Rosa.

He graduated from UC Davis in 1975 and worked as a health care volunteer in Honduras before enrolling at McGeorge School of Law. He earned a law degree in 1981.

Mr. Tosney was an easygoing man and a “tenacious competitor with a great jump shot” in basketball games against younger men, his son said. He played bass in a rock band as a young man and performed in recent years with a group of other lawyers at parties. He was learning Spanish and had traveled several times to Costa Rica, where he dreamed of buying a home and retiring.

Mr. Tosney is survived by his wife, Jocelyn Bair. In addition, he is survived by his son Joshua from his first marriage to Katherine Knight; two children, Jessica and Johnny, from a second marriage to Jennifer Rogar; and one grandson.

An informal memorial is set for 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at de Vere’s Irish Pub, 1521 L St., Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Legal Services of Northern California.

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