Saturday, June 30, 2007
"Ronnie Rivera, a 15-year-old in braided pigtails, sits in a wheelchair in a narrow hallway of Hill Haven senior-citizen nursing home. A half-dozen other residents, many with dementia and most four to six decades older, sit nearby. Around them, a maintenance worker mops the linoleum floor.
Ronnie has lived in this single-story red-brick building since she was 10 years old, the only child among elders. Her mother, Iris Rivera-Smith, has tried unsuccessfully for years to get the financial help she would need to bring her daughter home.
Thousands of other children are growing up in nursing homes across the country, many for the same reason as Ronnie. Federal disability insurance guarantees nursing-home care for the disabled. But in many states, its coverage isn't enough to let those people, children included, live at home -- even when the cost to taxpayers, and the strain on families, is often much lower."
By Clare Ansberry, Wall Street Journal Link to Article (last visited 6-30-07 NVS)
"For many outstate parents with severely disabled children, finding a residential facility in their community often isn’t an option. Many times the only place for children to get the services they need is in a residential facility or group home located out of town. A rural group is pioneering a program that allows disabled children to live at home and stay engaged in the community.
Home and Community Options (HCO) in Winona has operated a non-residential program for children with severe disabilities for the last seven years. They currently serve 70 families. HCO’s Family Resource Home provides physical and emotional support for disabled children in a home-like setting during the day while the children stay with their families at night."
By Minnesota 2020 Link to Minnesota 2020 (last visited 6-30-07 NVS)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
"The June 2007 issue of the AFCC eNEWS is now available online. AFCC eNEWS is a bi-monthly e-newsletter published by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC). This issue of the AFCC eNEWS features international news from Australia, Canada, Iran and the UK, and free online audio from a workshop at AFCC’s 44th Annual Conference, entitled, Differential Assessment and Intervention in Domestic Violence Cases." By AFCC
Click this link to view the June 2007 issue of AFCC eNEWS. Link to Newsletter
Sunday, June 17, 2007
"EACH night, in the United States, more than 50 million children eat dinner without their fathers. Given this grim statistic, it seems appropriate to wonder what difference a father makes anyway. Or, put differently, does dining with Dad matter, or is a father at the dinner table like a kidney or a lung — nice to have but not essential for living?"
By Cameron Stracher, NY Times Link to Article (last visited 6-17-07 NVS)
"“Something else could be done,” his 13-year-old son Junior pleaded to the New York-based advocacy group Families for Freedom, “because kids need their fathers.”
Right now the physical, emotional, financial and legal status of American-born minors like Junior can neither delay nor prevent their parents’ detention or deportation. Last year, Representative José E. Serrano, a Democrat from New York, introduced a bill that would allow immigration judges to take into consideration the fates of American-born children while reviewing their parents’ cases. The bill has gone nowhere, while more and more American-citizen children continue to either lose their parents or their country."
By Edwidge Danticat, NY Times Editorial Link to Article (last visited 6-17-07 NVS)
". . . a different kind of first family could also blur the sharp line of red-blue antagonism. The endless fight over “values” always seems to pit two idealized states against each other — the prelapsarian world of “the intact family” against the liberatory culture of “the ’60s.” Who actually lives in one of these worlds — besides the current tenants of the White House? Wouldn’t it be to our benefit to scramble those boundaries?"
By James Traub, N.Y. Times http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/magazine/17wwln-lede-t.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin Link to Article (last visited 6-17-07 NVS)
Thursday, June 14, 2007
The Associated Press reports that a judge has ruled that a 24-year-old Canadian man is not allowed to have a girlfriend for the next three years. The ruling came after Steven Cranley pleaded guilty on Tuesday to several charges stemming from an assault on a former girlfriend. Cranley, who has been diagnosed with a dependent personality disorder, attacked his girlfriend in an argument after their breakup.
Read the New York Times story (last visited June 14, 2007 bgf)
A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals reverses a divorce court's grant of default judgment against Husband based on his refusal to participate in arbitration. An important issue in the case was when the parties separated (the case provides great facts for a hypothetical on this issue). The litigation at trial was complicated by being heard by three different judges, none of whom had provided the necessary disclosures regarding arbitration required by Michigan's domestic relations arbitration statute. The majority held that the trial court erred in granting default judgment in light of is failure to comply with the requirements of the statute regarding written agreements to arbitrate and judicial disclosures regarding the process.
The dissent by Judge Murray agreed that the trial court had not complied with the statutory requirements but would have upheld the default judgment as a sanction for the Husband's failure to comply with a court order. The concurring opinion by Judge O'Connell agrees that, while litigants must obey court orders, court must equally follow statutory dictates. The exchange between the two judges in their opinions provides a lovely example of policy argumentation for our students. For example, Judge O'Connell argues:
plaintiff was ordered to forego recourse to our primary institution of justice, surrender his rights, and submit the substance of his legal dispute to the discretion of an unknown, unelected, unappointed, and largely unaccountable third party. Although our courts have always respected a party's consent or contractual freedom to take a more streamlined approach to dispute resolution, they have never shirked their constitutional duty by requiring litigation in an alternative, unofficial forum. ... Domestic relations necessarily involve personal, rather than pecuniary, issues, so our legal system has been especially slow to sanction extrajudicial resolution of any of these matters, even when founded on the parties' mutual assent.
Johnson v. Johnson, 2007 Mich. App. LEXIS 1480 (June 7, 2007)
In a chapter from a "protracted and ugly" divorce case, the bankruptcy court held that a Husband's obligation to "assume and pay and hold [Ex-Wife] harmless from . . . the second mortgage on the parties' home" was in the nature of support and thus was not dischargeable in bankruptcy. The case would be useful for students to read not only for the bankruptcy analysis, but as a demonstration that securing a divorce decree is only the first step in enforcing support obligatiosn. As the court here noted, the husband's attempts to discharge the mortgage obligation "has almost exhausted the resources of both the federal and state courts of Utah."
As to the characterization of the obligation itself, the court noted that whether an order is in the nature of support is a matter of federal bankruptcy law, so that "a debt could be in the 'nature of support' under [bankruptcy law] even though it would not legally qualify as alimony or support under state law." Here the court correctly determined that to the extent the mortgage obligation was premised on the right of the Debtor's children to live in the home until age 18.
The court split on the issue of whether attorneys fees were properly awarded.
Busch v. Hancock (In re Busch), US Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the 10th Circuit (June 4, 2007)
Read opinion (last visited June 14, 2007 bgf)
The tax court, in a recent summary opinion, provides a good example for our students of the importance of careful drafting in light of the interrelationship between the tax code and state law when determining the tax consequences of divorce. In this case, the divorce decree provided that Husband would pay Wife $1200 a month in “rehabilitative alimony” and an additional $72,000 in “lump-sum alimony”, payable in installments of $600 a month. The decree did not indicate whether this lump sum
award would terminate upon Wife’s death.
Under section 71(b) of the tax code, alimony is not deductible if it does not terminate upon the payee spouse’s death. Because the Florida courts have held that an award of lump-sum alimony survives the death of both the obligor and the obligee, the alimony was not properly deductible.
Hinson v. Commissioner, US Tax Court Summary Opinion 2007-92 (June 7, 2007)
Read opinion (last visited June 14, 2007 bgf)
Thursday, June 7, 2007
"A potentially groundbreaking legal battle over Connecticut’s exclusion of gay people from the state’s marriage law has catapulted the debate over same-sex marriage to a new level.
Appearing last month before the state’s highest court, a lawyer representing eight same-sex couples led a spirited attack on Connecticut’s refusal to grant gay couples the freedom to marry. He also challenged the notion that civil union laws — like those enacted in Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, and most recently New Hampshire — are a constitutionally adequate alternative.
The plaintiffs’ argument was laced with references to Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court’s notorious 1896 decision which justified racial segregation under a deplorable standard of “separate but equal.” Although startling, the analogy is apt. In establishing civil unions two years ago, Connecticut lawmakers created a separate and inherently inferior institution that continues to deny gay couples the equality they seek and deserve."
N.Y. Times Editorial Link to Article (last visited 6-7-07 NVS)
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
"An energy magnate's estranged wife was awarded $184 million Monday in what appears to be one of the biggest divorce verdicts in U.S. history.
Citing irreconcilable differences, Maya Polsky, a 55-year-old art gallery owner, filed for divorce from her husband, Michael Polsky, in 2003.
Judge William Boyd ruled in October that Maya Polsky was entitled to half of the Chicago couple's cash and assets, with her share valued at $176 million. On Monday, the judge amended his decision to include previously omitted assets that increased the value of her award to $184 million.
Maya Polsky's attorney, Howard Rosenfeld, said more than $170 million of the award is nontaxable cash. He said that in researching the case he could find nothing in which a homemaker wife received such a significant award.
"She's very much satisfied with the court's decision. She thinks she was fairly treated by the court," Rosenfeld said." AP, CNN.com Link to Article (last visited 6-5-07 NVS)
"The New York State Legislature is rightly pleased with itself for passing a new law that offers tougher penalties for sex traffickers, as well as help for their victims who are often smuggled in from abroad and forced to work as sex slaves. As important as it is, the trafficking law fails to deal with the serious and growing problem of American children, some as young as 13 years old, who are dragooned into prostitution by brutal pimps.
The best way to care for these children would be for the State Senate to pass the Safe Harbor Act, a groundbreaking law that was passed by the House.
By law, sexually exploited children are too young to even consent to sex. But instead of treating them as victims, prosecutors too often charge them with prostitution and send them off to the juvenile equivalent of jail. Under the Safe Harbor law, sexually exploited children would no longer be charged with prostitution. They would be placed under state supervision and lodged in safe houses where they would get the counseling and medical care they need and are unlikely to receive in detention."
By N.Y. Times Editorial Link to Article (last visited 6-5-07 NVS)
Sunday, June 3, 2007
"Sandee Winkelman calls her experience with her Ohio school district "horrific" and accuses officials of "bullying" her over who should pay for the special education their autistic son receives.
But Winkelman and her husband, Jeff, won a round Monday when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in their favor regarding a legal sticking point in their lawsuit against their local school board.
The justices concluded federal law includes an exception permitting the Winkelmans to represent themselves without a lawyer in their ongoing lawsuit. They had argued they could not afford a lawyer and better understand their child's special needs.
"The parents enjoy enforceable rights at the administrative stage," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, "and it would be inconsistent with the statutory scheme to bar them from continuing to assert those rights in federal court." He added the parents can sue for their child's needs "on their own behalf.""
By Bill Mears, CNN Link to Article (last visited 6-3-07 NVS)
"The facts of Omar Ahmed Khadr’s case are grim. The shrapnel from the grenade he is accused of throwing ripped through the skull of Sgt. First Class Christopher J. Speer, who was 28 when he died.
To American military prosecutors, Mr. Khadr is a committed Al Qaeda operative, spy and killer who must be held accountable for killing Sergeant Speer in 2002 and for other bloody acts he committed in Afghanistan.
But there is one fact that may not fit easily into the government’s portrait of Mr. Khadr: He was 15 at the time.
His age is at the center of a legal battle that is to begin tomorrow with an arraignment by a military judge at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of Mr. Khadr, whom a range of legal experts describe as the first child fighter in decades to face war-crimes charges. It is a battle with implications as large as the growing ranks of child fighters around the world."
By William Glaberson, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 6-3-07 NVS)
"Gay and lesbian prisoners in California will be allowed overnight visits with their partners under a new prison policy, believed to be the first time a state has allowed same-sex conjugal stays.
The policy comes more than two years after a 2003 California law provided equal rights for registered domestic partners in California, including those of the same sex and non-married heterosexuals. Gay and civil rights groups had threatened to sue to permit the conjugal visits in prisons, which they say have been slow to enact changes promised by the law."
By Jesse McKinley, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 6-3-07 NVS)