The Strange Asylum Case of Ms Z

In the late 90’s, about 1997, before I left my private law practice in Washington, D.C. to teach at the Barry University School of Law School I was approached by a new, potential client. I will call her Ms. Z. Ms. Z had arrived in the United States a week earlier from Germany. She told me she needed a lawyer. Here’s why.

Ms. Z had obtained a visa from one of our American consulates in Germany allowing her to travel to the U.S. as a tourist. Upon arriving at the port of entry in Washington, D.C. she told the immigration officials that she did not really come to the U.S. to be a tourist. Instead she asked the officials to grant her asylum in the U.S. The inspectors were surprised and detained her for an interview. In order to gain asylum in the United States one must prove to the immigration authorities that they have been persecuted in their home country or have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or one’s standing in a particular social group.

Ms. Z was put in detention for several days while they investigated. After hearing her story, which I will relate a bit later, the inspectors found that she might have a “credible claim” for asylum. They released her on her own recognizance and gave her a “Notice to Appear” in Immigration Court on a date two weeks away. They also gave her a “lawyers list” provided by the U.S. State Department of Washington, D.C. lawyers who might represent indigent asylum seekers for little or no money.

Because it begins with a “B” my name, Birdsong, was at the top of the list. Ms. Z sought me out at my office. I learned that Ms. Z had been in the U.S. one week, had less than $900 and was staying at the Washington YWCA. She spoke fairly good English and very good German. She was a small woman with lots of black curly hair. I thought her to be somewhat attractive in a “gypsy” sort of way. She was surprised to learn that I spoke some German and had previously been stationed in Hamburg, Germany as a U.S. State Department officer. We talked. She said she wanted me to represent her in immigration court. I told her she did not have enough money for my representation. She demanded. I refused… however, I listened to her case.

Ms. Z was actually a citizen of Romania. She had fled Romania in the early 90’s when the communist government of Romania collapsed. She had worked at the Romanian National Museum as a cataloguer. She had obtained her education and her job because she had joined the communist party when a teenager. With the communists out of power she feared that there might be reprisals against her by a new government.

As a result, she fled to Germany. After being there 18 months Germany granted her asylum and granted her a “laissez passé” or “travel document” that permitted her to travel outside of Germany. She learned German, got a job cleaning houses, and tried to keep a low profile. However, she did attend several rallies protesting the rise of neo-Nazis in Germany. She claimed that after one of these protests a group of young skin head neo-Nazis followed her to her home. They taunted her claiming she must be a Jew for attending such a rally. She was not Jewish. Nevertheless she was frightened by these skin head thugs.

Over the next few months groups of skin head neo-Nazis continued to taunt her when she left her apartment or when she came home. There came a point when they threw eggs at her second floor apartment windows. She believed they even broke in once when she was not home because food was missing. She became more frightened, she complained to her landlord. Ultimately she went to the German police. They told her there was nothing they could do, especially since she was not Jewish.

The taunts continued. She was never physically accosted, however her tormentors started taunting her by calling her a “Stauffenburg.” Count Von Stauffenburg was the German military officer who attempted to assassinate Hitler near the end of World War II with a bomb. Ms. Z decided she must leave Germany for her own protection. She flew to the United States and sought asylum in the U.S. because she was fleeing persecution at the hands of neo-Nazis who believed she was Jewish and a threat to them. I refused her case on the ground she had little money. She offered to work for me in my office as free paralegal for several weeks if I would only represent her.

Unfortunately, I relented and did let her work for me as a paralegal for the two weeks leading up to her immigration court hearing. Up to this time I had had a wonderful record of representing clients in the two Washington area branches of the U.S. immigration courts over a period of several years. I had gained asylum grants for the clients in nineteen of the nineteen cases I had taken to trial. However, I told Ms. Z that her case involved concepts known as political opinion, imputed political opinion and mixed motive asylum claims. These types of cases were among the most difficult cases in which one could expect to obtain asylum for a client. I also told her that she had already been given asylum in Germany and this was usually a bar to obtaining asylum in the U.S. After prepping her for the hearing she agreed that if it appeared that she would not be granted asylum that I would be allowed to request that she be given “voluntary departure.” This is a discretionary form of relief that an immigration judge may grant that will avoid deportation and allow the asylum claimant to leave the U.S. at his or her own expense within 60 days.

As I had surmised, the hearing did not go well. We had drawn the toughest immigration judge on the entire court. The judge listened to my proffer of what Ms. Z’s evidence would show if she went to trial. To say the judge was befuddled and a bit bemused would be an understatement. The judge had before her a Romanian citizen who had been already granted asylum in Germany, who was fleeing Germany because she was allegedly being persecuted by neo-Nazis who thought she was Jewish, when she wasn’t, and had the fortune to find that the first lawyer on the lawyers list given her was an African American who spoke German. The judge suggested that I might ask for another form of relief for my client. I promptly requested that the judge grant Ms. Z voluntary departure from the United States within sixty days. To my great surprise, the judge did just that. To my greater surprise the judge did not ask Ms. Z to provide bond to show that she would leave as expected. Instead, the toughest judge on the court continued Ms. Z’s release on her personal recognizance.

Ms. Z and I took a taxi back to my office where she collected her belongings, thanked me and left. I never made a dime on the case and I have never seen nor heard from her since. However, I have often wondered whether she really ever voluntarily left the United States. It is my assumption that with her gumption and brashness she is still living in the States and probably married to an American citizen. Stranger things have happened.

Brexit – What Next?

In a post-Brexit world there are multiple existing frameworks that the UK can look to in negotiating a new trade deal with the EU.

  • The European Economic Area (EEA) is that which is most similar to the EU, and, the free movement principle is considered essential to membership of the EEA.
  • The European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) consists of the EEA members who remain outside the EU, with Switzerland as the only state not also part of the EEA and as such this is often referred to as the Swiss model. The Swiss model is based upon a multitude of bilateral treaties, and again retains the principle of free movement
  • The EU has recently concluded negotiations on the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, which has yet to come into effect.
  • There is also a Customs Union under which Turkey trades with the EU.
  • As a baseline, international trade can be governed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

EEA

The EEA is perhaps the closest alternative to the EU, and is often referred to as the Norwegian model. The free movement of people principle applies across the EEA and EEA (which includes EU) citizens are free to live and work in EEA states. EEA states are subject to the majority of EU rules and regulations however are exempt on certain areas such as agriculture and fisheries. However, the input that the EEA countries have into EU policy is very limited. They have been described as being subject to the rules without having a seat at the table where the rules are decided upon.

Non-EU countries within the EEA have to pay in to the EU budget proportionate to their economies and do not receive any funding from EU policies or any EU development funds. Norway for example pays in more than many EU member states, this is particularly heightened when you consider that actual members net contributions are reduced by the money they receive from the EU.

EFTA

Switzerland is the only EFTA country to remain outside the EEA and its relationship with the EU is governed by over 120 bilateral agreements. These agreements cover some, but not all, aspects of trade, Switzerland makes a financial contribution to the EU, including to the enlargement fund, and is subject to the Free Movement of People. Switzerland does not have a general duty to implement EU laws but is obliged to do so where trade is concerned. EFTA importantly, does not provide full access to the single market for its banking sector and other parts of the services sector, which together make up almost 80% of the UK economy.

The Swiss model was devised in a very unique context and was intended to be a transition into the EU for Switzerland It is highly unlikely to be replicated

CETA

The EU has recently concluded seven year negotiations on the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. The deal has not yet come into effect and still faces a number of hurdles to be ratified by each member state.

The EU and Canada have agreed to scrap tariffs on industrial and fisheries products. The majority of agricultural products, with the exception of some key and protected products, will also see tariffs scrapped. The agreement also brings significant liberalisation of public procurements, allowing European companies to bid for public contracts in Canada. Some agricultural products, such as eggs, chicken or beef, have been excluded or limited from the deal meaning an equivalent would make significant sectors of British agriculture subject to tariffs. This type of agreement however is unlikely to be reflected in a similar UK-EU agreement given the geographical and historical links between the two.

CETA does not involve Canada paying into the EU budget or signing up to EU rules on the free movement of people in return for increased market access.The free movement of people is not part of CETA, however, the agreement does provide for visa free travel. Limitations on this right to visa free travel for some member states is the subject of some consternation and could potentially delay ratification.

The presence of an investor state dispute settlement provision may also raise concerns for those who voted to leave the EU on sovereignty concerns.

Trade in goods under the Canadian agreement will be largely based upon EU rules of origin. These rules require a sufficient proportionate amount of a product to be made in Canada. A similar requirement would place additional requirements and customs checks on UK goods, subjecting small business in particular to onerous administrative requirements The UK would be subject to additional tariffs on products the EU seeks to protect whilst having no say on the setting of EU regulations and standards that all products would be required to meet.

There is limited liberalisation with regards to services, and importantly, financial services remain subject to regulatory and licensing requirements. In the wake of the Brexit, the City has stated the importance of Passporting rights to the viability of the financial sector, a CETA style agreement will not provide for any such rights. Passporting rights are the main concern for the City of London post-Brexit and is seen as essential to maintaining the City’s status as the place to headquarter from and do business.

A Customs Union

Turkey currently has a customs union with the EU, meaning that there are no tariffs or quotas on industrial goods exported to EU countries. As part of this union, Turkey must then apply the EU’s external tariff on goods imported from outside the EU.

However, the customs union does not apply to agricultural goods, or services – including financial services. As it is not a member of the EU, Turkey has no say on setting the EU external tariff. Were the UK to adopt such an approach, it would have no vote or influence on the trade deals that the EU pursues, effectively making it a silent partner in EU trade policy

Much like the Swiss bilateral agreements, the Customs Union with Turkey was established as a precursor to eventually joining the EU.

WTO Rules

The UK could access the single market under WTO rules which form the default position for international trade. However, the principle of non-discrimination mandates that, in the absence of a bilateral treaty, members cannot treat any trading partner less favourably. This means the UK would be subject to the tariffs from its biggest trading partner in the form of the EU Common External Tariff. This avenue would also not provide any avenue for financial services to retain their current access to the single market.

The WTO rules will become the default position by which the UK trades with the single market if no trade agreement is reached before the UK exits the EU.

Conclusion

It is unclear which trade deal, or amalgamation of such, the UK will seek to follow. However, what is clear is that there will be important implications for EU citizens based in the UK. We would advise those that are in a position to do so to apply for permanent residency in an effort to solidify their status in the UK.

Do Your Part In Helping Your Attorney Bring You The Best Possible Outcome

If you want to experience a positive outcome to your case you need to fulfill your role as a good client. It is essential that you help your lawyer as much as possible so that he can win the case for you or at least try and get you the best possible result. The most important and easiest way this can be done is by truthfully answering all the questions the lawyer asks you. Be honest with him and that is the first step in helping him help you.

Small details can turn into vital information and so it is necessary for you to stop holding back even bits of information. It is for the lawyer to decide if the information is relevant or not. You do not have to worry about the lawyer cheating you because the first meeting you set up with the lawyer establishes some confidentiality rules that protect you. Rules make it impossible for the attorney to divulge anything you have said to another individual. Confidentiality is vital and lawyers abide by this. This gives you peace of mind and therefore you can talk out freely about the truth that took place.

After explaining everything and once you are sure that the attorney has clearly understood the situation it is time for you to start questioning and vice versa. It is better to have a list of questions prepared so that you do not leave out on any of the doubts.

In case of any special needs such as being able to converse in a different language, you need to clearly ask the professional if it is a possibility and this needs to be done at the initial meeting itself. You must also ask them about their availability so that you can approach them at any time regardless of the day or time. By finding out all this in the initial stages you make it impossible for yourself to be disappointed later on.

In order to identify your best match you are at liberty to make a lot of enquiries and interviews. It is good to be able to have a bunch of qualified lawyers to choose from. Though it is very rare to find a pick at your first instance, if you are lucky enough, grab the golden opportunity.

If you happen to interview many lawyers and find that there are many who you like then you can ask for contacts of past clients. Talking to old clients will help you understand the lawyer in detail.

Ways to Divorce

Divorce can be a difficult as well as psychologically tolling process on all parties involved. When it comes to divorce, there is not just one way to divorce. Parties can choose to each hire a lawyer to represent them during the divorce process, parties can choose to work together with a mediator to assist them in crafting an amicable agreement or each party can choose to hire a collaborative divorce lawyer and work with each other and the lawyers with the goal of resolving issues and avoiding court. A divorce can be uncontested, contested or granted by default. The differences are explained below:

Uncontested Divorce

It is always the least costly and best choice to try and resolve a divorce in an uncontested way. An uncontested divorce is where you and spouse work together to craft an agreement on the terms of your divorce. By working together and agreeing on the terms, you can avoid going to court.

Parties can work together with a neutral mediator to craft the terms of the divorce and then file the divorce papers themselves with the court. They can also each hire a collaborative divorce attorney who will work with them to craft an amicable divorce agreement with the goal of avoiding court. If the parties disagree and decide to go to court, the collaborative divorce attorneys will discontinue representation. Or, a party can choose to hire a divorce lawyer to file divorce papers and craft an agreement to present to the spouse for signing 90 days from service of the divorce complaint on the spouse. If the parties consent to the divorce and sign the paperwork, the divorce papers can be filed with court and the parties will receive their divorce decree thereafter.

Default Divorce

A court will grant a divorce by “default” if a party files for divorce and the spouse does not response after being properly served with the divorce complaint and paperwork. This can be used when a spouse’s whereabouts are unknown or is unwilling to participate in the divorce process.

Contested Divorce

If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on the terms of your divorce, you can bring your issues in front of a Master and Judge. You will go through the process of exchanging discovery such as financial documentation, settlement negotiations, hearings, and, if you cannot come to an agreement after these exchanges, you will have a trial.

Fault and No-Fault Divorce

It used be that a divorce could not be granted unless there were fault grounds. Those days have passed and we now have no-fault divorces. Parties can still choose to divorce on fault grounds for reasons of adultery, abandonment; however, it can be very expensive due to the litigious nature of the divorce.

A no-fault divorce is where instead of proving that your spouse is to blame for the divorce, you can consent to the divorce under 3301(c) in Pennsylvania or divorce by Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage under 3301(d) in Pennsylvania. Under 3301(c), the parties can consent to the divorce by filing an affidavit of consent with the court 90 days after your spouse has been served with the divorce complaint. If both parties consent to the divorce, you can craft and file an agreement with the court and request entry of your divorce.

Under 3301(d), the parties must prove a separation from their spouse for a period of time to request grounds to divorce. If the period of separation from your spouse began on or after Dec. 5, 2016 you will need to be living separate and apart from your spouse for a period of ONE YEAR. If the period of separation from your spouse began before Dec. 5, 2016, you are required to be living separate and apart from your spouse for a period of TWO YEARS.

Mediated Divorce

Mediation is an alternative method of dispute resolution, which is available to parties undergoing separation, divorce or custody issues. Mediation is different than traditional divorce or custody litigation, because the parties work together to decide between themselves what is best for them and their children. In traditional divorce litigation, the parties are adversaries and the decision is left in the hands of the Master or Judge. In Divorce or Custody Mediation, the mediator does not act as an advocate or a Judge, rather, the mediator helps the parties work together to decide on their own how to resolve their differences.

Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce and Custody Practice is a voluntary dispute resolution process which allows parties to settle without resorting to traditional divorce and custody litigation. You and your spouse will each hire lawyers and work with the lawyers and each other to collaborative resolve issues that are in the best interests of everyone. The lawyers and clients sign an Agreement, which outlines that if the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the lawyers will withdraw from the case and assist the clients in transitioning the case to trial attorneys. By working in an open, cooperative environment, parties and their counsel can work toward a settlement that benefits everyone.

In Collaborative Law Practice, the parties voluntarily disclose all information relevant and material to the issues that must be decided, the parties agree to use good faith efforts in their negotiations to reach mutually beneficial settlements, each party must be represented by an attorney, the representation of the attorney ends upon any contested court proceeding, the parties may jointly engage experts as needed whose engagement terminates upon contested court proceedings.

The Major Keys of a Legal Service System

In whichever country we may reside we are bound by the laws of the place. Every country state has its own set of laws that the people, organizations and every alternate system have to abide by. The citizens have to limit their activities according to the demands of the state and country. In any country, the Supreme Court is the guardian of the legal system. All activities have to be brought to the notice of the Supreme Court and its subordinate judicial systems. Let us discuss the system briefly.

Supreme Court

As we already discussed, the Supreme Court is the highest system of any country. It is the father legal service provider. Even the head of the state or the country has to abide by its rules. The judge of this court has the final say in every matter.

• Suppose it is a criminal case where the offender has been found guilty and has been awarded capital punishment by the subordinate court. In that case, he may appeal to the Supreme Court. If the court finds him guilty he may be punished or he may be pardoned. If punished he cannot appeal any further.

• If there is a conflict between the centre and the state of any country the decision of the Supreme Court prevails.

• If a citizen feels that his/her fundamental rights have been obstructed by any person, group, or organization he/she may bring it to the notice of the highest court of the land.

Other Courts

There are several levels of the court. Some are local and some are higher than that. All of them work at the discretion of the Supreme Court.

Judges

The judges are a key factor to solve any cases that comes to the court. The judges have to be impartial in their views and have to listen to every case very carefully. After all the hearing they have to pass their judgment to the people impartially and what he feels would be best suited as per rule book of the place.

A Lawyer

The lawyer may be the least member of the court which one can relate to though he is the most important one. He acts as the connection between a person, an organization or a group and the court. He/she is the one who represents the case of a person, the organization or the group to the court. They are well accustomed to all rules and regulations and they help a person to get judgment.

In case you are in any problem that involves legal issues, approach a lawyer who would impart you proper legal advice and let you be in the right path.

Online Reputation Attacks Could Be Significantly More Powerful When Videos Are Used

Since taking over YouTube, Google appears to be on a mission to turn the internet into a multimedia medium and so are the other major search engines. It is believed that Google uses positive discrimination in order to encourage the use of video on the internet and as a result, it gives priority to video results which contain the searched keywords as well as to web pages which contain videos.

This means that online videos could be used as an explosive weapon by those who wish to harm your online reputation. Online videos can be optimized to obtain good placements without the search engines in exactly the same way that optimisation is done for a web page. In fact, some argue it is much easier to obtain high places in the search engines with videos than with web pages. At the moment, online videos remain a major reputational weakness for many businesses. But this weakness can be turned into strength very quickly.

As a tool to protect your online reputation against defamatory videos, if you make an early use of online videos, having at least 4 or 5 short ones, you will soon find that your business is found also on YouTube and on other websites which pick up videos from YouTube, but more importantly you will have created an important, yet simple and relatively inexpensive defence shield, which would make it more difficult for anyone else to penetrate. There are production companies out there which would create a series of 4-5 60 or 90 second videos for you from as little as £500.

If you don’t want to spend any time on this, they can use images to create the videos or they can even speak to your customers and create a compilation of testimonials. For our purposes, having the videos out quickly is the most important thing. Later on, when you are ready to put together a more robust online video marketing campaign, you will be able to add to or even replace your initial videos with your latest Oscar Nominated production. The general rule is: “the more and the quicker, is the better.”

How to Use Medicaid Planning to Fund Long Term Care

Until fairly recently, most people in need of long term care had few alternatives to entering a nursing home and wreaking havoc on family finances. Today, long term care can be obtained in various settings and we frequently help clients preserve assets and avoid impoverishing a spouse who remains at home. Yet, most people who need long term care eventually must turn to Medicaid for funding.

When first enacted with Medicare in 1965, Medicaid extended basic health care to poor people, especially children. Over the years, Congress has greatly expanded Medicaid, and it now also funds long term care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, private homes, and other settings. While all Medicaid applicants must satisfy very restrictive financial criteria, not every Medicaid recipient will qualify for all benefits because each Medicaid program has its own eligibility criteria.

As Medicaid eligibility rules are byzantine and complex, it’s nearly impossible to do effective Medicaid planning without expert guidance. Thus, the uninitiated often spend everything on nursing home care, even though elder law attorneys can help most individuals protect part of their hard earned savings and still qualify for Medicaid to fund long term care.

Although federal rules set basic standards, states have substantial leeway to fine tune available Medicaid benefits and qualification requirements. Since Medicaid programs vary by state, Medicaid planning should be based on the law of the state in which an individual will receive long term care, and Medicaid recipients who change states must qualify anew. Therefore, as with wills and powers of attorney, Medicaid planning may require significant change when seniors move from Florida or other states to be closer to their children.

Depending on the kind and extent of impairments, individuals can receive long term care in many different environments. Still, most people either enter a nursing home or assisted living facility or receive care at home. Fortunately, Medicaid can fund each of these arrangements.

Care Options and Medicaid Coverage

Nursing homes have a poor popular image, probably due to their decidedly institutional look and feel. Unfortunately, however, they usually are the only option for people who need substantial assistance with many activities of daily living. Assisted living facilities are an intermediate step more akin to a senior citizen apartment building with dining, activities, and staff on site. Without question, assisted living facilities offer nicer amenities than nursing homes, but because only limited care is available, they usually won’t accept people who need substantial aid. As professional round the clock care is extremely expensive but Medicaid coverage is modest, home care usually works only when provided primarily by family with paid home health aides as supplements.

New Jersey Medicaid pays for long term care in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and private homes, but not all states cover costs in each of these venues. Medicaid is divided into two broad categories: long term care and other care. Other care includes the usual diagnostics, preventive medicine, surgeries, and treatments that we all need from time to time. Long term care Medicaid covers nearly all nursing home costs, most assisted living facility charges, and some home health aide and other expenditures to help an individual remain in a private home. All Medicaid applicants must satisfy financial eligibility criteria, but persons who seek long term care Medicaid benefits also must demonstrate that they can’t live independently.

Medicaid Eligibility Requirements

To receive Medicaid, an individual who demonstrates a medical need for long term care must satisfy financial requirements. Medicaid may fund nursing home, assisted living, or at-home care when an applicant’s countable resources and income do not exceed modest resource and income limits. Countable income and resources are cash and other assets that are available to pay for food and shelter. Resources are amounts owned at the outset of a month while income is received during the month. Because Medicaid has few exemptions, receipts that wouldn’t be taxable income (e.g. gifts, Social Security, and tax exempt interest), security deposits, and jointly owned property generally are countable.

An unmarried person can qualify for Medicaid funded long term care by reducing countable resources to the applicable resource cap of up to a few thousand dollars. However, Medicaid planning is more complicated for married people because their combined countable resources are taken into account. When only one spouse needs care, an allowance of half combined countable resources up to a cap is allowed to the spouse in the community. This community spouse resource allowance (“CSRA”) is intended to protect the spouse at home from being impoverished, but in high cost states like New Jersey, Medicaid planning to protect savings is essential to afford a community spouse a reasonable standard of living. While the CSRA cap is adjusted for inflation, it is $109,560 as of Spring 2011.

Because couples typically must dissipate nearly all countable resources beyond the CSRA before Medicaid will pay nursing home charges, many people mistakenly believe that they must lose everything else when a loved one needs long term care. However, this merely illustrates the risks in acting on limited knowledge. Since excess countable resources need not be “spent down” only for long term care, we have many tools to help families preserve assets.

Medicaid Planning to Protect Savings

Despite popular misconceptions, Medicaid planning does not involve hiding assets, particularly since making a false Medicaid application is a serious crime. Rather, we help clients preserve savings by maximizing CSRA and spousal income allowances, converting excess countable resources into exempt items, spending down fruitfully, and minimizing penalties when making gifts.

Couples sometimes can increase a CSRA by borrowing (commercially or from loved ones) but the loan must be carefully timed and designed to be effective. Married Medicaid applicants also can preserve other resources as non-countable expenditures that benefit the community spouse. For instance, it can be beneficial to improve or buy a residence or vehicle for the community spouse.

Gifts often are a key element in Medicaid planning. While more can be saved by gifting early, Medicaid gift planning can prove useful even after entering a nursing home despite the sixty month gift look back period. However, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 substantially changed the Medicaid planning landscape to impose stiff penalties when gifts aren’t properly timed. Giving too much or applying for Medicaid too soon after gifting can needlessly trigger years of Medicaid disqualification. By the same token unduly small gifts may unnecessarily limit savings. No penalty results from qualifying gift to a disabled person or qualifying gift of a home to a caregiver child, but as with so many aspects of Medicaid planning expert advice is essential because technicalities abound.

To facilitate gift planning, a power of attorney that explicitly authorizes Medicaid gifts must be in place before a donor becomes mentally incapacitated. Otherwise a family will have to convince a guardianship court to authorize Medicaid gifts, which may prove difficult. Although a well designed Medicaid plan can preserve considerable amounts, everything can unravel if assets aren’t titled properly. Thus, it is crucial to ensure that wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations and default rules don’t cause distributions to a Medicaid beneficiary on death of a community spouse or other loved one. Similarly, addressing Medicaid estate recovery early can prevent substantial liens when a Medicaid recipient dies. Avoiding these traps for the unwary may require new deeds, account registrations, beneficiary designations, wills, and trusts.

Conclusion

No longer synonymous with nursing home entry, long term care can now be delivered in several other less institutional settings. Despite sky rocketing health care costs, elder law attorneys can help families obtain Medicaid to avoid financial ruin when a loved one needs long term care. However, because eligibility rules are complex and arcane with many traps for the unwary, effective Medicaid planning nearly always requires professional guidance.

© 2011 by Lawrence A. Friedman, Esq.

[This article originally appeared in New Jersey Lawyer Oct. 10, 2005, but the author has updated it to 2011.]

I’m Owed Money – Where Do I Start?

At one point or another someone is likely going to owe you money. If you run a small business in South Jersey, it’s almost inevitable. So how do you collect what is rightfully yours?

Contrary to the lawyer battle cry, the answer is not always to “sue them!” Sure, it is certainly satisfying to serve someone who has attempted to take advantage of you with a summons. However, before doing so, it’s important to evaluate your relationship with the individual/client/customer, and their reasons for not paying. Most significantly, would you like to do further business with this debtor? Are they simply having cash flow issues? Was there a misunderstanding? What does their past history look like?

If you’re not quite sure of the situation, give the debtor a call. In as much of a non-confrontational tone as you can muster, remind them of the debt and the terms of the agreement. At this stage, making threats is counter-productive but so is being overly accommodating. In general, a friendly yet firm approach produces the best results.

Regardless of the conversation’s outcome (barring the miracle that is immediate payment), send the debtor a letter memorializing the terms of the initial agreement as well as your recent telephone conversation. Send this letter by certified mail to confirm its receipt. Also, be sure to include a deadline for payment or a response. As the original debt holder, you are not subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and may give the debtor as many days to respond as you’d like. We recommend ten days from the date of the letter. Ten days is enough time to account for delivery time and consideration by the debtor. In our experience, if there is not a response within ten days, there isn’t going to be one.

The content of your demand letter should vary based upon the situation. Obviously, threatening legal action is not conducive to continued business. Just as a purely informational reminder will do little to spur action from those more unscrupulous of debtors.

Your demand letter did not work. Now what?!?!

You have three options:

– File a Lawsuit on Your Own

– Hire a Collections Agency

– Hire a Lawyer

Filing a Lawsuit on Your Own

Unfortunately, New Jersey law prevents your business from representing itself in court (unless you are a sole proprietor). However, as an individual, it is absolutely your right to file pro se.

For the purposes of suing on a debt, New Jersey civil courts are divided into three sections. They vary in procedure and the amount in controversy.

Law Division

– Claims over $15,000

– Discovery period lasting between 150 and 450 days

Special Civil Part

– Claims up to $15,000

– Abbreviated discovery period

– Trial dates generally scheduled within three months of filing Complaint

Small Claims

– Claims up to $3,000

– No Answer required; appearance at trial date sufficient

– No discovery period

– Trial dates generally scheduled within six weeks of filing Complaint

Law Division cases are not only lengthy but subject to the New Jersey Rules of Practice. As a result, we do not suggest representing yourself (not from self-interest, we promise).

Special Civil Part also is subject to the New Jersey Rules of Practice. However, some of its practices are amended to reflect the Special Civil Part’s condensed format. New Jersey Courts’ website offers a great how-to-guide for pro se Special Civil Part litigants which you can find here.

Small Claims court is the Wild West of New Jersey courts. The vast majority of litigants are unrepresented, the cases are, for the most part, the result of personal grievances, and the Judge generally doesn’t want to be there any more than the next person. It makes for interesting viewing, and a certain headache.

Hiring a Collections Agency

Many collections agencies focus solely on bulk collections. However, there are collections agencies that will handle individual debtors. The value in using a collections agency is their ability to manage a large debt portfolio, track down individual debtors, and relentlessly contact debtors in an effort to settle the debt. Communication from a collections agency may also give a debtor a sense of urgency.

However, for those cases where there is a single debtor with a known address, a collections agency is likely not the best route.

Hiring a Lawyer

Surprise, surprise. We recommend retaining a lawyer to assist you in collecting a debt. However, only in cases where it appears as if payment is not forthcoming and/or you do not wish to conduct future business with the debtor. Undoubtedly, a demand letter from your lawyer threatening a lawsuit doesn’t do a whole lot to help a business relationship. However, if you’ve heard enough excuses and promises to pay, hiring a lawyer is the most effective way to see actual cash. First, debtors tend to pay more attention to attorney correspondence. They realize that legal consequences loom if they fail to pay the debt. Second, this is what lawyers do. We know how the game is played, its rules, and what the likely outcome is. Third, even if you “win” in court, you may not see any actual money. Lawyers know the best ways to turn your judgment – which is worth only as much as the paper it is printed on – into cash; by garnishing wages, levying bank accounts, and creating statewide liens.

There is no way around it – attempting to collect a debt is a frustrating process. It takes time, patience, know-how, and a sense of objectivity. It can certainly be done on your own. However, to ensure that you receive the most of your money, we recommend an experienced debt collection lawyer.

How To Find Trustworthy Asylum Lawyers?

Experienced and knowledgeable asylum lawyer to assist in your immigration process

The US Immigration law is a bit intricate, and the legal norms and regulations usually changes from time to time. Individuals willing to immigrate to a foreign land can definitely think of getting proficient legal assistance from the specialized immigration asylum lawyer. There can be numerous reasons for which the person may have to relocate to a foreign country. It can be due to study, business work or some personal matter. By acquiring requisite legal guidance from the lawyer the immigrating person would not have to face any legal complexities and can travel to the foreign land reluctantly.

With advent of modern technology, it has become extremely simple to search for experienced and professional immigration asylum lawyer in US. To help the potential immigrant, there are a number of law portals on the Internet. A great way to commence your search for experienced lawyer can be accomplished using such sites. The help seekers can easily communicate with the lawyers and get the initial legal assistance and approximate cost estimations for their immigration purpose. It could efficiently help to initiate the immigration process and help you to deal with the entire legal procedure in a hassle-free manner.

Why does an immigrant need to approach the asylum lawyer?

Some of the individuals have the urgency of returning to their own mother land or nation of origin. But due to inappropriate legal documentation, they are not able to make the smooth transition and relocate to their hometown. Under legal guidance of the experienced asylum lawyer, the urgent immigration needs can be effortlessly accomplished. Some of the immigration issues that are legally solved by the lawyer include:

· Felony history

· Infringement of immigration regulation

· Overstaying or failing to depart the nation on the mentioned date

· Violation of work permit rules

Services offered by the asylum Immigration lawyers:

Some of the professional legal services offered by the proficient immigration asylum lawyer include:

· Legal assistance and advice – The professional lawyers can provide requisite legal guidance to solve complex immigration issues. Some of the issues are political, social, harassment at workplace, domestic violence or gender related. A person may have applied for immigration for numerous reasons. Whatever is the reason, the lawyer are always there to help their clients and offer them advice related to Asylum and Human Rights case.

· Representation of the case before the Visa consulate office – The immigration lawyer may help to represent his client’s legal case before the Visa consulate office and take responsibilities of all the legal documentations.

· Legal advice on the pre-qualifying eligibility – The Asylum law is very complex part of jurisdiction and it is governed by numerous International agreements, conventions etc. The lawyer would have adequate knowledge of all such agreements and terms.

· Interview preparation – To qualify in the Visa interview process, it is important for the immigrant to be confident enough. The experienced asylum lawyer will prepare the client to be well versed with the complete interview process and thus the chances of success will increase.

A proficient and well-versed asylum lawyer can efficiently represent the immigration case and help the immigrant to stay away from the political and social-economic troubles. Moreover, the lawyer can also defend his client’s pursuits in appellate proceedings.

Is It Possible To Identify an Anonymous Blogger?

Cyber bullies and stalkers get bolder all the time and many will now create full blown blogs and web sites to harass their victims. They’ll use anonymous blogger formats like WordPress.com or blogger.com to create use as a platform for their Internet terrorism. They may also create a web site using any anonymous domain proxy service to attack someone. They use these anonymous or proxy services in order to conceal their identity from their victims. But are they really untouchable? Is it impossible to locate or identify a cyber bully just because they use an anonymous proxy domain registration service or use a free anonymous blog service?

The simple answer is no. Anyone can be located or identified with a thorough enough investigation and with enough time and money anyone can be found. But you probably won’t have any luck trying to do it on your own. You’re going to need help from someone that has the training and experience to do this kind of investigation and unfortunately you’re not going to find that kind of private investigator in the yellow pages. You’re going to need a private investigator that specializes in Internet investigation and computer crimes. This kind of PI can take an email and trace it back to the owner. They can contact the web owner and obtain identifying information beyond the proxy registration. They can even contact anonymous blog sites and identify those bloggers.

The cyber bully may think they’re clever and covering their tracks but the fact is that the more clever they think they are the more likely they are to be caught. A trained experienced investigator knows how to take advantage of the cyber bullies obsessive personality and use it against them. Setting up traps for the stalker to fall into and reveal themselves.

Once the private investigator has them identified the cyber bully he can document his findings in a report. That report can then be presented to your local police for further investigation and even an arrest if they feel the stalker has broken the laws. If the police feel that it is a civil matter you can hire a lawyer to send a cease and desist letter to the home of the stalker. Many times this will snap them back into reality when they see you know their real name and address and have taken serious steps to confront them in real life. However if that is not effective you can go to court and petition for a restraining order against your bully restraining them from contacting you over the Internet. If you can demonstrate they have violated that order the police will arrest them.Thus putting a stop to the cyber bully.

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