s Legal world: April 2008

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Student Loan Consolidation

Student Loan Consolidation - How does it Work?
Student loans are a great source of financial aid for students who need help paying for their education. Unfortunately, students often leave college with burdensome debt. In addition, they often have multiple loans from different lenders, meaning they are writing more than one loan repayment check each month. The solution to this problem is loan consolidation.

What is loan consolidation?
Loan consolidation means bundling all your student loans into a single loan with one lender and one repayment plan. You can think of loan consolidation as akin to refinancing a home mortgage. When you consolidate your student loans, the balances of your existing student loans are paid off, with the total balance rolling over into one consolidated loan. The end result is that you have only one student loan to pay on.

Both students and their parents can consolidate loans.Should I consolidate my loans?
Loan consolidation offers many benefits:
* Locks in a fixed, usually lower, interest rate for the term of your loan, potentially saving you thousands of dollars (depending on the interest rates of your original loans) * Lowers your monthly payment * Combines your student loan payments into one monthly bill
In addition, consolidated loans have flexible repayment options and no fees, charges, or prepayment penalties. There are also no credit checks or co-signers required.
You should consider consolidating your loans if the consolidation loan would have a lower interest rate than your current loans, particularly if you are having trouble making you monthly payments. However, if you are close to paying off your existing loans, consolidation may not be worth it.

How will the interest rate for the consolidated loan be?
The interest rate for your consolidated loan is calculated by averaging the interest rate of all the loans being consolidated and then rounding up to the next one-eighth of one percent. The maximum interest rate is 8.25 percent.
To figure your interest rate, visit loanconsolidation.ed.gov for an online calculator that will do the math for you.

How much can I save?
How much you save by consolidating loans depends on what interest rate you get and whether you choose to extend your repayment plan. According to Sallie Mae, the leading provider of student loans in the United States, consolidating student loans can reduce monthly payments by up to 54 percent. However, the only way to reduce your payment this much is to extend your repayment plan. You typically have 10 years to repay student loans, but, depending on the amount you're consolidating, you can extend your repayment plan all the way up to 30 years. Remember that if you choose to extend your repayment term, it will take longer to pay off your overall debt and you'll pay more in interest. There are no preypayment penalties, so you can always choose to pay off the loan early.

Am I eligible to consolidate my loans?
In order to consolidate your loans, you must meet the following criteria:
* You are in your six-month grace period following graduation or you have started repaying your loans * You have eligible loans totaling over $7,500 * You have more than one lender * You have not already consolidated your student loans, or since consolidation you have gone back to school and acquired new student loans
The following types of loans can be consolidated:
* Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans * Federal Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans * Direct PLUS Loans and Federal PLUS Loans * Direct Consolidation Loans and Federal Consolidation Loans * Guaranteed Student Loans * Federal Insured Student Loans * Federal Supplemental Loans for Students * Auxiliary Loans to Assist Students * Federal Perkins Loans * National Direct Student Loans * National Defense Student Loans * Health Education Assistance Loans * Health Professions Student Loans * Loans for Disadvantaged Students * Nursing Student Loans

Where can I get a consolidation loan?
You can consolidate your loans through any bank or credit union that participates in the Federal Family Education Loan Program, or directly from the U.S. Department of Education. The loan terms and conditions are generally the same, regardless of where you consolidate. You may want to check first with the lenders that hold your current loans.
If all your loans are with one lender, you must consolidate with that lender.
If you decide to consolidate your student loans, remember that you can only do so once unless you go back to school and take out more loans. Therefore, you will want to make sure you get the best deal the first time. The interest rate will be the same from all lenders, but some lenders may offer future rate discounts for prompt payment and a discount for having monthly payments directly debited from your account.

Can my spouse and I consolidate our loans together?
You can consolidate your loans together, but it is not a good idea for a couple reasons:
* Both of you will always be responsible to repay the loan, even if you later separate or divorce * If you need to defer payment on the loan, both of you will have to meet the deferment criteria

When should I consolidate my loans?
You can consolidate your loans any time during your six-month grace period or after you have started repaying your loans. If you consolidate during your grace period, you may be able to get a lower interest rate. However, since you will lose the rest of the grace period, it is a good idea to wait until the fifth month of the grace period before consolidating. The consolidation process usually takes 30-45 days.
This article is distributed by NextStudent. At NextStudent, we believe that getting an education is the best investment you can make, and we're dedicated to helping you pursue your education dreams by making college funding as easy as possible. We invite you to learn more about Student Loan Consolidation at NexStudent.com.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys

What does it mean to "post bail?"
Bail is cash or a cash equivalent that an arrested person gives to a court to ensure that he will appear in court when ordered to do so. If the defendant appears in court at the proper time, the court refunds the bail. But if the defendant doesn't show up, the court keeps the bail and issues a warrant for the defendant's arrest.Bail can take any of the following forms:

* cash or check for the full amount of the bail * property worth the full amount of the bail * a bond-that is, a guaranteed payment of the full bail amount, or * a waiver of payment on the condition that the defendant appear in court at the required time, commonly called "release on one's own recognizance" or simply "O.R."

Who decides how much bail I have to pay?
Judges are responsible for setting bail. Because many people want to get out of jail immediately and, depending on when you are arrested, it can take up to five days to see a judge, most jails have standard bail schedules which specify bail amounts for common crimes. You can get out of jail quickly by paying the amount set forth in the bail schedule.

Are there are restrictions on how high my bail can be?
The Eighth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution requires that bail not be excessive. This means that bail should not be used to raise money for the government or to punish a person for being suspected of committing a crime. The purpose of bail is to give an arrested person her freedom until she is convicted of a crime, and the amount of bail must be no more than is reasonably necessary to keep her from fleeing before a case is over.
Some judges set a high bail in particular types of cases (such as those involving drug sales or rape) to keep a suspect in jail until the trial is over. Although bail set for this purpose -- called preventative detention -- is thought by some to violate the Constitution, this practice has continued in many courts.

What can I do if I can't afford to pay the bail listed on the bail schedule?
If you can't afford the amount of bail on the bail schedule, you can ask a judge to lower it. Depending on the state, your request must be made either in a special bail-setting hearing or when you appear in court for the first time, usually called your arraignment.

How soon can I appear before a judge?
In federal court, a person taken to jail must be brought "without unnecessary delay before the nearest available . . . magistrate." Most states have similar rules. In no event should more than 48 hours elapse (not counting weekends and holidays) between the time of booking and bringing you to court.

How do I pay for bail?
There are two ways to pay your bail. You may either pay the full amount of the bail or buy a bail bond. A bail bond is like a check held in reserve: It represents your promise that you will appear in court when you are supposed to. You pay a bond seller to post a bond (a certain sum of money) with the court, and the court keeps the bond in case you don't show up. You can usually buy a bail bond for about 10% of the amount of your bail; this premium is the bond seller's fee for taking the risk that you won't appear in court.
A bail bond may sound like a good deal, but buying a bond may cost you more in the long run. If you pay the full amount of the bail, you'll get that money back (less a small administrative fee) if you make your scheduled court appearances. On the other hand, the 10% premium you pay to a bond seller is nonrefundable. In addition, the bond seller may require "collateral." This means that you (or the person who pays for your bail bond) must give the bond seller a financial interest in some of your valuable property. The bond seller can cash-in this interest if you fail to appear in court.
Nevertheless, if you can't afford your bail and you don't have a friend or relative that can help out, a bond seller may be your only option. You can find one by looking in the Yellow Pages; you're also likely to find bond sellers' offices very close to any jail. Finally, be ready to pay in cash, a money order or a cashier's check. Jails and bond sellers usually do not take credit cards or personal checks for bail.

Is it true that a defendant who proves his reliability can get out of jail on his word alone?
Sometimes. This is generally known as releasing someone "on his own recognizance," or "O.R." A defendant released O.R. must simply sign a promise to show up in court. He doesn't have to post bail. A defendant commonly requests release on his own recognizance at his first court appearance. If the judge denies the request, he then asks for low bail.
In general, defendants who are released O.R. have strong ties to a community, making them unlikely to flee. Factors that may convince a judge to grant an O.R. release include the following:
* The defendant has other family members (most likely parents, a spouse or children) living in the community. * The defendant has resided in the community for many years. * The defendant has a job. * The defendant has little or no past criminal record, or any previous criminal problems were minor and occurred many years earlier. * The defendant has been charged with previous crimes and has always appeared as required.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Twittering Tax Pros

The fabulous Wendy Piersall (now of sparkplugging.com in case you missed the re-branding announcement) posted a list today of Twitter Moms (the list is here - check it out).

I’ll confess. I’m a Twitter-freak. I do enjoy trying to sum up my day in 140 characters or less - it helps me clear out the cobwebs. Yes, there’s a joke in there somewhere that involves Paris, a Peugeot 205 and a crazy law student - but that’s for another day…

But back to the list… I’ll warn you about Twitter upfront. It’s addictive. Waaay addictive. But it’s also cool.
If you’re ready to take the first step and say, “I’m a tax professional and I love to Twitter,” let me know. I’m going to compile a list of Twittering Tax Pros.

Here’s the list so far:
lawmummy - my personal Tweet

taxgirl - my feed (oh yeah, you can read feeds via Twitter)










I tried to filter out the Twitter-spammers (who knew?) and the folks who never update. But if you don’t fit either description and you’re a Twittering Tax Pro, let me know and I’ll add you to the list! Just leave a note below in the comments with your Twitter ID.

Trackback : http://www.taxgirl.com/

OK AG values Bank over Battered Women

This was originally submitted to the Tulsa World as an op-ed piece, but was not published:

update as of 4/10/08: The Tulsa World did indeed publish this an op-ed piece, The Native American Times reprinted it and the Cherokee Phoenix plans to reprint it in the next issue. AG Edmondson responded with an op-ed piece on 4/6/08 and telephoned me to discuss the issue on 4/8/08. I have sent him additional info and will post any further updates in the comments section - mlt

On November 20, 2007, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson announced an innovative partnership with Wal-Mart to combat domestic violence. In the press release describing that initiative, Edmondson declared, "It's tragic to lose a mother, daughter, sister orfriend to domestic abuse. . . . We will never know how many of those deaths could have been prevented if these women had only known where to go for help."
In February 2008, Edmondson joined several other state attorneys general (Idaho, Alaska, Florida, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin) on an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court for a ruling that has the potential to eviscerate tribal court authority to issue and enforce protection orders - leaving Indian women battered by non-Indians with no legal recourse and no protection.

The case pending before the Supreme Court, called Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family, is not a case about domestic violence - it is a case involving a loan made by a non-Indian bank to Indians who lived on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. When things went awry, the bank lost the suit in tribal court, then went to federal court to contest the ability of the tribal court to hear the case.
In Plains Commerce Bank, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to clarify the ability of tribal courts to hear cases involving non-Indians who come onto a reservation and do business with Indians. If this has been a state, there would be no question the state court could decide the case - state courts have the authority to decide cases involving people and companies who conduct business within the state, even if they are not state residents.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has created a separate set of rules for tribal courts, limiting their authority over non-Indians. As part of those rules, the Supreme Court has declared that if a non-Indian engages in consensual relations with a tribal member, the tribal court can hear any case arising out of that transaction. The Bank in the case currently pending before the Court is asking the Court to rule that the consensual relationship test can be satisfied only if the non-Indian clearly and expressly agrees to let the tribal court decide the case. Edmondson and several state attorneys general are urging the Court to do what the Bank asks.
The problem is that such a ruling could potentially have far-reaching consequences. The consensual relationship test is also what allows tribal courts to issue and enforce protection orders to protect victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a widespread problem, and it is particularly acute for Indian women. U.S. government statistics show that Indian women are two and one-half times more likely to be the victim of violent crime; one in three American Indian women will be raped in their lifetime; three of four will be physically assaulted, and Indian women are stalked at a rate more than double that of any other population. Well over 75% of the perpetrators of these crimes are non-Indian.

That means when an Indian woman is involved with a non-Indian man in Indian country, the only court that can issue and enforce a protection order is a tribal court. Since it is unlikely that these men will clearly and expressly agree to tribal court authority over them, that leaves Indian women with no legal recourse. Apparently, our Attorney General thinks a bank that has voluntarily used the tribal court got mad because it lost the case is more important than Indian women who are battered and abused. He would rather protect the bank than the woman.
If that is the case, shame on him. If it is not the case, then I urge him to withdraw from the brief asking the Court to protect the bank. It's not too late, and if it saves one woman's life, it is well worth it.

Trackback : http://www.tribal-law.blogspot.com/

Transcript of Argument in Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle

The transcript of the argument today in Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle is available here. Surprisingly, the Court was heavily interested in the idea that a majority Indian-owned corporation might be considered an Indian or member of a tribe for jurisdictional purposes. At one point during the argument the Court was erroneously advised by counsel that such corporations could not be organized under tribal law.

If, as the questioning suggests, the corporate form of the respondent plays any significant role in the disposition of the tribal court jurisdictional issue posed in the case, the decision, if adverse to tribal court jurisdiction, could have significant adverse affects not only on tribal court jurisdiction but also on the ability of Indians to adopt corporate forms of organization for economic enterprise.Given that the case should turn on the basic Montana tests, surprisingly little of the oral argument and the questioning involved any actual analysis of that line of cases.

Trackback : http://lawandotherthings.blogspot.com/

Mandal II Judgment: Some unanswered questions

The original version as read out by the CJI is still not in the public domain, but this notes can be relied upon for raising some valid questions.
After the four judgments were read out by the Judges, the Chief Justice read out a summary of findings of the Court so that there is no confusion. He read out as follows:-*The 93rd Amendment Act does not violate the basic structure so far as it relates to aided educational institutions. As far as private unaided educational institutions are concerned, 4 out of 5 Judges have left the question open while Justice Bhandari has held that it is violative of the basic structure.*The 2006 Act is constitutionally valid subject to exclusion of creamy layer.*The quantum of 27% reservation for OBCs is not illegal.*The 2006 Act is not illegal merely because time limit is not prescribed for reservation.*There should be a review of the lists of SEBC every 5 years.

1.The direction for a review of the lists of SEBC every five years: Does it run counter to the direction in Indra Sawhney 1 which was for review/revision every 10 years? The Government appears confused on this. At the same time, it should be noted that the Bench rejected the plea to set aside the Act merely because the lists were not revised by the Government, even after 10 years. In 2003, when the time for review came after 10 years of notification of the lists, the Government consulted the NCBC, and the latter conveyed the views of the States that revision was not required at that stage. The Bench did not deal with how the review should be done, and what happens if the review is not to the satisfaction of the Court.

2. The question of graduation being a factor in identifying backwardness of castes was dealt by Justice Pasayat. But such a factor is already one of the recognised criteria with the NCBC, to determine backwardness. Therefore, Justice Pasayat's suggestion has been put forward as if it was earlier ignored by the NCBC. This forms part of the summary of Justice Pasayat's findings which says: "Graduation or professional qualification shall be the standard test for measuring backwardness,", but this is missing from the overall summary prepared by the Chief Justice. The summary of Justice Bhandari's findings (as read out in the Court) is equally silent on his opinion that once a candidate graduates from a uiversity, he/she is educationally forward and is ineligible for special benefits under Article 15(5) for post-graduate and any further studies thereafter.

3. Justice Bhandari suggested to the Government to adopt economic criterion to identify backwardness, after he said he was "compelled" to agree to caste being a criterion. Justice Pasayat also said, to strike a constitutional balance it is necessary and desirable to ear-mark certain percentage of seats out of permissible limit of 27 per cent for "socially and economically backward classes". This phrase is probably used for the first time in the context of reservations. Justice Pasayat says in the summary read out in the Court: Some seats of 27% seats for OBCs should go to socially and economically backward classes after 10 years. Taken together, do the majority Judges approve of economic criterion? Will it be binding? But it doesn't form part of the CJI's summary. And it also runs counter to Indra Sawhney1 which had rejected economic criteria adopted by the Narasimha Rao Government.

4. I understand some lawyers had suggested that Justice Bhandari's view that that part of Article 15(5) dealing with reservations in private educational institutions would be severed will be binding, as the other four Judges left it open. The summary read out by the Chief Justice in the open court says: "The 93rd Amendment Act does not violate the basic structure so far as it relates to aided educational institutions. As far as private unaided educational institutions are concerned, 4 out of 5 Judges have left the question open while Justice Bhandari has held that it is violative of the basic structure." Is the question of binding nature of Justice Bhandari's decision also open? The CJI's summary is silent on this.
This is how Justice Bhandari's opinion, as read out in the Open court goes: "The 93rd Amendment Act in so far as it relates to private educational institutions distorts basic structure as it abrogates Article 19(1)(g). As far as State and aided institutions are concerned, Article 15(5) is valid. Hence I sever the portion of Article 15(5) in so far as it relates to private unaided educational institutions." Of course, it is reasonable to suggest that majority Judges want the question to be left open, but I don't know whether there is any case law which suggests otherwise.

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