Podcast: Love and divorce edition

divorceThe state of the marriage union is discussed by two top Chicago-area family lawyers in this podcast from The Chicago Bar Association on the Legal Talk Network featuring Miles N. Beermann and Kimberly Cook. Hosts Jon Amarilio and Jennifer Byrne ask about the current state of marriage and divorce in America, as well as their guests’ experiences on the front lines of this contentious area of the law. Beermann and Cook also talk about how they might have handled some high-profile celebrity divorces.

Justice Dept. places quotas on immigration judges

The Justice Department is imposing quotas on how quickly immigration judges can close cases in an effort to speed up the process, raising serious questions about the independence of the judicial branch of law. The ABA Journal, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal report that the Justice Department is taking the action to help relieve a backlog of immigration cases. According to The Washington Post:

The judges will be expected to clear at least 700 cases a year to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating, a standard that their union called an “unprecedented” step that risks undermining judicial independence and opens the courts to potential challenges.

The new measures will take effect October 1, at the start of the new fiscal year. The quotas were announced by the Executive Office of Immigration Review.

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Trump’s threats to DACA

undocumented immigrantsOver the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted that there would be “NO MORE DACA DEAL” and blamed the failure on Democrats. At CNN, attorney Raul Reyes writes that Trump is ignorant of the nation’s immigration laws, pointing out that it was Trump himself who ended DACA in September of last year. Reyes says there has never been any realistic chance that a DACA deal could be struck. Read more about Reyes’ opinion at CNN.

The Washington Post also has analysis of Trump’s threats to DACA and how it reflects his presidency.

How a lawyer pulled off the greatest Social Security fraud ever

He called himself “Mr. Social Security.” And in a way, he was: Attorney Eric Conn ripped off Social Security for $550 million. Conn told his clients in Kentucky that he could get them disability money that they couldn’t get on their own. CNBC has a look at how Conn pulled off his con:

What Conn was not telling clients — or the Social Security Administration — was that his purported 99 percent success rate was the result of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal payments to Social Security Administrative Law Judge David Daugherty, who essentially rubber-stamped the claims. When the scam finally came to light, Social Security suspended disability payments to some 1,700 recipients, leaving many in desperate straits.

Click here to find out more about how Conn pulled it off, and how it could happen again. Go inside Eric Conn’s massive con, and see how he almost got away with it, on an all new episode of CNBC’s “American Greed,” Monday, April 2, at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on CNBC.

Time to abolish ICE?

ICE agents immigrationImmigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been in the news a lot lately, and not always in a good light. Does the US need a mass deportation strike force? A civil rights lawyer who’s running for Congress doesn’t think so. In an interview with The Nation, Dan Canon says he believes ICE should be abolished. “I don’t think a lot of people have any kind of direct experience with ICE, so they don’t really know what they do or what they’re about. If they did, they’d be appalled,” Canon told The Nation. He says ICE is “devoted almost solely to cruelly and wantonly breaking up families. The agency talks about, and treats, human beings like they’re animals.” Read more about Canon’s argument at The Nation.

Podcast: Asylum forbidden: AG Sessions changes who qualifies

Attorney General Jeff SessionsAs Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ war on asylum cities and states continues, the Justice Department has begun to change the definition of who qualifies for asylum protection. Sessions is placing stricter limits on who can qualify for asylum in America. Immigration lawyers are warning that this could result in thousands of people fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries being turned away once they reach the US. NPR takes a look at how these changes could affect those seeking asylum.

Podcast: What’s in a law firm name?

Legal ToolkitChoosing a name for your law firm isn’t necessarily a simple process. However, what that name denotes can have a tremendous impact on your level of success. The name doesn’t have to be boring, but lawyers don’t always feel compelled to be particularly creative when deciding upon the firm’s name. In this episode of Legal Toolkit at Legal Talk Network, host Jared Correia talks to attorneys Andrew Garcia and Megan Zavieh about why it’s important to put some thought into the name of your firm.

A ‘dreamer’ waits and watches the clock run out

immigration and crimeLeezia Dhalla is a ‘dreamer,’ one of thousands of immigrants who were brought to this country as children. Her legal protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals run out in less than two months. She has lived in the US for 22 years, immigrating to Texas in 1996, but unless Congress does something soon to decide what will happen to her and other ‘dreamers,’ Dhalla will be forced to leave the nation she loves, as she told The Washington Post:

My employer will have to let me go; I won’t have a way to pay my rent; my family and friends will be inconsolable, knowing that I can be deported at any time. They’re the ones whose lives will be disrupted, alongside mine, if I’m deported to a country I barely remember. After 22 years of living the United States, my future — and the futures of about 800,000 young Americans like me — is in total limbo.

Dhalla says it’s an understatement to say that she and other ‘dreamers’ are disappointed in the lack of action by politicians to resolve the crisis. Read more about her personal story at The Washington Post.

New Film Exposes Nationwide Abuses of Seniors and People With Disabilities, Calls for Reforms in Guardianships

social security disabilityPursuit of Justice is a film (36 min.) by Greg Byers which tracks the advocacy of civil rights attorney Thomas F. Coleman, clinical psychologist Nora J. Baladerian, and a growing network of activists as they travel the country promoting reforms in adult guardianship proceedings involving seniors and adults with various disabilities. The documentary is sponsored by Spectrum Institute.

Like the recent Oscar-nominated film Edith+Eddie, Pursuit of Justice shows how guardianships can be manipulated to abuse the rights of vulnerable adults. While Edith+Eddie involves an interracial couple in their nineties, Pursuit of Justice focuses on adults of various ages who have different types of disabilities.

Stephen and Greg are autistic men in their twenties. Mickey, in his thirties, had an intellectual disability. Kay, in her forties, has Down syndrome. Michael, an articulate young adult in his late teens, has cerebral palsy. David, a former NPR news editor was 59 when the onset of an illness devastated his mobility and impaired his ability to communicate.

There are currently more than 1.5 million adults in the United States who are in court-ordered guardianships or conservatorships. Tens of thousands of new cases are filed each year. In these proceedings, judges take away the rights of adults to make basic life decisions — where to live or work, control over finances, medical choices, whether to marry or have sex, who to socialize with, etc.

Each state uses its own rules in guardianship cases — rules which often deny meaningful access to justice to the adults whose fundamental rights are placed at risk in these proceedings.

Pursuit of Justice offers a path for significant reform by promoting federal oversight of these state-operated judicial proceedings.  Without voluntary changes by the states, it will require effective enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act by the U. S. Dept. of Justice to transform the status quo of unjust assembly-line practices into ADA-compliant proceedings that provide true access to justice.

Pursuit of Justice was released on March 1, 2018 — just days before the film Edith+Eddie was considered for an Oscar at the Academy Awards.  Edith+Eddie tells the story of an elderly couple who fell in love in their final years – only to be torn apart through an abusive guardianship proceeding initiated by an intruding relative.

Edith+Eddie touches the hearts of viewers, leaving them wondering how such an injustice could occur.  Although this masterfully produced and artfully directed film forcefully introduces viewers to a specific instance of oppression, the film’s audiences are left unaware that similar injustices are occurring every day in America and are ruining the lives of scores of adults of all ages, incomes, and political affiliations.

In addition to giving examples of injustices perpetrated on adults all along the age spectrum, Pursuit of Justice offers hope that sustained and creative advocacy will eventually cause systemic reforms to the judicial systems in all 50 states.

The combined impact of the films Edith+Eddie and Pursuit of Justice could make 2018 a watershed year for guardianship reform. These documentaries have just the right ingredients to become the impetus for significant and lasting political and legal reforms.

Watch the film online at: http://www.pursuitofjusticefilm.com/

Spectrum Institute is a nonprofit organization promoting equal rights and justice for people with disabilities — especially for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  In addition to its Disability and Guardianship Project, the organization also operates a Disability and Abuse Project.