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Grassley Presses for Answers on How Federal Judiciary will Handle Sequestration PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 November 2012 13:22
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is pressing for a comprehensive plan from the federal judiciary in light of possible budget cuts due to sequestration.

Grassley said he became concerned after reading an email alerting him to the drastic measures the governing body of the federal court system would take if sequestration occurs.  The email lacked any reference to actions the courts should already be taking to limit unnecessary spending, such as limiting conferences expenses and travel for judges and other employees.  Savings generated by cutting these unnecessary expenditures could help the courts avoid layoffs, continue juror compensation, and ensure that defender services are maintained.

Grassley’s concerns were presented today in a letter to Judge Thomas Hogan, the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts which is the operating body of the federal court system.

“The entire federal government is going to be absorbing some difficult cost saving measures.  But, it’s disappointing that the federal judiciary outlined draconian measures in a vague email instead of providing a comprehensive plan.  It seems to present a Chicken Little mentality without much effort and forethought into avoiding major disruptions.  The last thing we want is for people to be laid off or justice to be delayed,” Grassley said.  “The federal court system should have a detailed plan to ensure as little disruption as possible in case sequestration occurs.  I’ve outlined a great deal of questionable spending by the federal judiciary that could easily be curbed to give the cost saving a jump start.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the federal courts system.  Grassley has been conducting oversight of unchecked spending by the federal judiciary for several years.

Here’s a copy of the text of the letter to Hogan.  A signed copy can be found here.

 

November 8, 2012

Via Electronic Transmission

 

The Honorable Judge Thomas F. Hogan

Director

Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building

One Columbus Circle N.E.

Washington, D.C. 20544

 

Dear Judge Hogan:

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (A.O.) sent an email recently to staff members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary outlining the impact of the possible sequestration on the federal courts.  As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, I want to ensure the A.O. has a more comprehensive plan for sequestration than was outlined in the email.

The A.O. warned that “[a]n 8.2 percent cut could amount to a $555 million [funding] reduction” and would be “devastating.”   In addition, the A.O. intimated the federal courts could be forced to downsize its staff across the country by approximately one third as well as potentially require involuntary separations and/or up to five weeks of furlough for court employees.  Your office also cautioned that defender services would be severely impacted by the suspension of payments to private attorneys and their staffs.  And finally, the A.O. suggested court security would be cut by fifty percent, and jurors would not be paid for their services.

There is no question that the funding reductions would be difficult to absorb.  However, I find it surprising that while the A.O. has been quick to outline the number of employees who would be either involuntarily separated or furloughed, other operational expenses are not mentioned.

For a number of years, I have been raising concerns about the significant amount of court funding spent on non-case related travel.  Thus far, the spending documents I have seen do not appear to justify the travel expenses associated with several events sponsored by various components of the judiciary.  For instance, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held a weeklong conference in Maui, Hawaii, costing taxpayers well over $1 million.  In another example, five district courts requesting new judgeships spent over $635,000 and used at least 1362 paid work days for non-court related travel in 2010 alone.  Additionally, the Federal Public Defender’s Office (FPDO) for the Eastern District of California recently spent at least $25,000 for an employee spa weekend.  And in fact, the 62 FPDOs across the country have spent at least $17 million on travel expenses over the past two years alone.  While these only represent several examples, if spending on items of this nature were curtailed, the savings could go a long way towards filling the funding shortfalls your office identified.

According to the March 13, 2012 Report on the Proceeding of the Judicial Conference of the United States,[1] the Budget Committee “developed a report to the Executive Committee on the status of the judiciary’s cost-containment efforts.”  The report states that “given the current and expected worsening funding climate facing the judiciary, it is essential that the judiciary complete and implement, as soon as possible, as many of these initiatives as feasible.”

I agree wholeheartedly that the judiciary needs to seek out and implement cost-containment measures, but I strongly encourage the A.O. to review the judiciary budget as a whole to identify those measures.  For this reason, I am requesting the following additional information:

1)      The detailed plan for how the A.O. intends to meet effectively the demands of any potential sequestration, and the demands of the federal court system.

2)      The cost savings for each measure outlined in the plan provided in question (1) would generate.

3)      Details regarding the decision-making process for determining where funding cuts would be made, how deep those cuts would be, and what, if any, programs would not receive a funding reduction.

4)      Details about how funding for non-case related travel throughout the federal judiciary will be reduced.

5)      The results of the Federal Judicial Center survey of judges “to ascertain which resources they consider most (and least) essential to performing their official duties.”[2]

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.  I would appreciate receiving your response to this matter by December 4, 2012.  Should you have any questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact my staff at (202) 224-5225.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member

1.  Report of the Proceedings of the Judicial Conference of the United States, at 9 (March 13, 2012), available at  http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/JudicialConference/Proceedings/Proceedings.aspx?doc=/uscourts/FederalCourts/judconf/proceedings/2012-03.pdf

2 Id. at. 7.

 





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Making a Beautiful Difference in Iowa – Women of Worth PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Amanda Gluck   
Monday, 12 November 2012 09:25

I would like to introduce you to two women who are making a beautiful difference in Iowa…

Dr. Ida Johnson of Davenport, IA is the Founder of United Neighbors, Inc., an organization that helps others help themselves while building self-worth, and includes youth, education, housing, financial literacy and multicultural healthcare programs.  Sarah Cronk of Bettendorf, IA is the Founder of The Sparkle Effect, a student-run program that empowers teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in school-based cheerleading and dance programs.

Ida and Sarah are two of ten women chosen out of thousands of nominations to become Women of Worth honorees. The amazing Women of Worth program, which honors women making a difference in their communities, is launching their voting phase today to gain recognition for their incredibly inspiring honorees. This is the program’s 7th year, with each of the below 10 women being chosen out of thousands of nominations – they each get $10K for their organizations and whoever gets the most votes (starting today through the 21st) from the public gets an additional $25K and is named the Women of Worth National Honoree.

When Dr. Ida Johnson moved to Iowa 38 years ago as a newly divorced mother, leaving behind an abusive ex-husband in search of a better life for her five children, she found a home in a low-income, inner city neighborhood and employment in a kitchen at St. Ambrose University. Fighting to keep her family safe, intact and fed, Ida began bringing neighborhood children into her home for games and learning activities.

Now, nearly 40 years later, with the mission of helping others help themselves while building self-worth, United Neighbors has helped to take children off the streets and into a safe place, with an after-school program bringing in tutors to assist with homework and teach computer skills. Kids in the program receive a home-cooked meal and participate in creative activities, then are safely driven home each evening. Additional programs include first-time homebuyer education, down payment assistance, a minimum code home repair program in partnership with the City of Davenport and a multicultural health initiative to provide health education seminars to nearly 400 underserved people in the area each year.

Sarah Cronk grew up watching her older brother, Charlie, struggle to make friends due to his disability and noticed that it wasn't until the popular swim team captain invited Charlie to sit at his lunch table that things began to turn around. He encouraged Charlie to join the team and Sarah watched her brother's confidence soar.

In 2008, Sarah created and coached the nation's first inclusive cheerleading squad at her high school. A year later, she established her nonprofit, The Sparkle Effect (TSE), a student-run program that empowers teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in school-based cheerleading and dance programs.

More than five million students with disabilities attend public schools in the United States, yet most school sports and activities are not designed to accommodate these students. As a result, students with disabilities are left sidelined – excluded from high school sports and the social opportunities they offer. Students participating on TSE teams are breaking down social barriers, replacing insecurity with confidence and joy, and demonstrating that when we open our minds and our hearts to people of all abilities, everyone benefits. Within the past year, TSE has grown from 25 to over 70 teams nationwide, directly including more than 1,200 students.

 

WOMEN OF WORTH PROGRAM

The Women of Worth initiative, now in its seventh year, is inspired by L’Oréal Paris’ iconic brand philosophy, “Because You're Worth It.” Since its inception, the program has recognized 70 women for their outstanding devotion to their causes, with honorees embodying the spirit of the L’Oréal Paris brand through their commitment to their communities, their selflessness and their drive to make a difference in the world.

 

Now in its seventh year, the Women of Worth program has recognized 70 incredible women to date for their amazing accomplishments, and this year’s ten honorees continue to inspire through their dedication to philanthropy and their passion for improving the world. From young women who pioneered programs while still in high school to women who have been changing lives for decades, 2012’s Women of Worth honorees are making an extraordinary difference in their communities.

RECOGNITION

Each of the incredible honorees has received $10,000 for her charitable cause and will be recognized at an awards ceremony and dinner hosted by L'Oréal Paris and Hearst Magazines on December 6th in New York City. At the event, one National Honoree, chosen via a public online vote, will be announced, and she will receive an additional $25,000 for her charity.

 

VOTING

Public online voting for the Women of Worth National Honoree is open from today through November 21st on WomenofWorth.com. Visitors to the site can vote once per day for their favorite Woman of Worth, and the honoree with the most votes will be named National Honoree.

 

HONOREES

Setting the bar for extraordinary philanthropic efforts, this year’s honorees support a wealth of important causes, from healthcare to education and everything in between.

 

·         Amy Paterson – Portland, OR; Co-founder of My Little Waiting Room, an organization that promotes the health and well-being of families by bringing drop-in child care to hospitals so that children can thrive as families heal.

·         Catherine Meek – Los Angeles, CA; Executive Director of School on Wheels, an organization that enhances educational opportunities for homeless children by providing homeless students with one-on-one volunteer tutors.

·         Dr. Ida Johnson – Davenport, IA; Founder of United Neighbors, Inc., an organization that helps others help themselves while building self-worth, and includes youth, education, housing, financial literacy and multicultural healthcare programs.

·         Kate Bialo – Larchmont, NY; Founder and Executive Director of Furniture Sharehouse, an organization that empowers underprivileged families by providing basic furniture to turn their house into a home.

·         Lorraine Kerwood – Eugene, OR; Founder of NextStep, an organization that focuses on people, the planet and education by providing community members with disabilities the tools they need to succeed academically and in the workplace.

·         Olivia Stinson – Charlotte, NC; Founder of Pen Pals Book Club and Support Group, an organization that strives to promote literacy and provide cultural and social activities for children with incarcerated parents.

·         Risa Vetri Ferman – Abington, PA; Co-founder of Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center, a non-profit that gives child abuse victims a voice and helps them heal.

·         Sandy Puc’ – Littleton, CO; Co-founder of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, an organization that provides the gift of remembrance photography for parents suffering the loss of a baby. 

·         Sarah Cronk – Bettendorf, IA; Founder of The Sparkle Effect, a student-run program that empowers teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in school-based cheerleading and dance programs.

·         Sue Runsvold – San Jose, CA; Founder of TurningWheels for Kids, an organization that provides a brand new bike to every low-income, at-risk child who needs or wants one.

 
EXCHANGE STRENGTHENS AMERICA’S FAMILIES PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dave Fairweather   
Tuesday, 06 November 2012 14:25

The Exchange Club of the Quad Cities passed out free flags at this year’s Boo at the Zoo event at Niabi Zoo on October 27. The Exchange Club handed out more than 1600 flags to the trick-or-treaters who came to the zoo for an early Halloween celebration on the chilly Saturday morning. The Exchange Club partnered with the Child Abuse Council of the Quad Cities to make sure all the little goblins received their very own American flag.

Established as a national Exchange project in 1981, GiveAKidAFlagToWave helps young Americans cultivate a deeper sense of patriotism and to heighten young American’s and appreciation for our country’s flag.

Background

The National Exchange Club, headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, is an all-volunteer, national service organization for men and women who want to serve their community, develop leadership skills and enjoy new friendships. Exchange has over 21,000 members throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

The Exchange Club mission is to work together to make our communities better places to live through child abuse prevention, community service, service to youth, and promotion of Americanism.

The Exchange Club of Quad Cities is a local chapter of the national organization. The club meets on the first and third Thursday of each month at The Windmill Restaurant in East Moline, Illinois. Social time begins at 6:00 PM with dinner following at 6:30 PM. Guests are always welcome to attend any meeting. For membership information, call Bob Dixon at 797-5705.

Exchange Give A Kid A Flag To Wave 2012.tif

 
Davenport Area Schools Join Mediacom’s “Shoes That Fit” Campaign PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Alexandra Swanson   
Tuesday, 06 November 2012 13:39

Public Encouraged to Help Meet Clothing Needs of Local Children

Davenport, Iowa – November 6, 2012 – School age children from 14 Davenport area elementary schools will benefit this year from the annual “Shoes That Fit” campaign that supplies need-specific shoes and clothing to local elementary school students. The non-profit community outreach program is led by Mediacom, along with Davenport area business partners Mimzi Art and Frame and Deere Harvester Credit Union.

The purpose of Shoes That Fit is to fulfill specific shoe and clothing needs, matched to individual children identified by school liaisons.  The donations of new shoes, boots, coats or other clothing are often the only genuinely “new” items available to children whose needs have been confidentially assessed. (School partners list below)

“The program is about more than shoes,” says Mediacom’s Jim Stoos who is vice president for the company’s OnMedia advertising division.  “In many classrooms, teachers will see a child with only one set of clothes and a pair of worn out shoes to wear to school every day.  This affects a child’s self-esteem, and it means that learning takes a back seat to embarrassment,” said Stoos.

“Thanks to Mimzi Art and Frame and Deere Harvester Credit Union, we can help local children feel good about themselves and feel good about being in school. Additionally, people who donate the shoes and clothes to make this program a success will feel especially good about giving tangible assistance to meet the needs of local children,” Stoos added.

The local business sponsors provide locations where community members can pick up Shoes That Fit donation cards.  Donor cards describe the needed items and the specificity of the child’s gender and size.  Individual donors shop for the items and return them, unwrapped, to the business sponsor. Mediacom’s OnMedia team ensures prompt delivery to the students through the school liaison.  Only new shoes and clothing can be accepted.

The program is underway now through December 1. School partners encourage donors to shop for and return items as soon as possible, especially to get ahead of winter weather and the need for boots and coats.

OnMedia is the cable television advertising division of Mediacom.  Local OnMedia employees have coordinated the Shoes That Fit campaign for the past 11 years. Throughout that time they have partnered with more than 50 elementary schools in Des Moines, Newton, Marshalltown and Ames and have donated more than 73,000 Shoes That Fit items to elementary school children in need.  For more information on Shoes That Fit visit www.shoesthatfit.org.

 

Davenport Area Business Partner Locations for Donor Cards and Shoes That Fit Drop-off

 

Mimzi Art and Frame - 3825 16th Street, Moline, IL 61265

Deere Harvester Credit Union - 5354 Elmore Circle, Davenport, IA 52807

Deere Harvester Credit Union -1090 South Congress Street, Geneseo, IL 61254

Deere Harvester Credit Union -1101 13th Avenue, East Moline, IL 61244

 

Local Elementary Schools where students benefit from Shoes That Fit

·         Fillmore Elementary

·         Jefferson Edison Elementary

·         Madison Elementary

·         Monroe Elementary

·         Riverdale Heights Elementary (Bettendorf)

·         Washington Elementary

·         Wilson Elementary

·         Bridgeview School Elementary (Pleasant Valley)

·         Jackson Schools

·         Buchanan Elementary

·         Marquette Academy

·         McKinley Elementary

·         Children’s Village

·         Hayes School Elementary

 
E-Commerce Businesses Stand to Lose More Without Asset Protection PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 06 November 2012 13:34
By: Hillel Presser

What differentiates commerce businesses from traditional businesses when it comes to asset protection?

Potentially more assets in need of protecting.

Both types of business owners have assets such as homes, cars and bank accounts that need protection in the event of a lawsuit – whether it’s a personal suit or one targeting the business. E-commerce businesses may need more financial protection to cover their wealth of intangible assets, including domain names, website content, intellectual property, trademarks and patents. Additionally, an e-commerce business may prove to be more of a lawsuit liabilitybecause it’s vulnerable not only in the state where the storefront or warehouse is located, but essentially everywhere substantial connections are made, including internationally. In that sense, theneed to create, maintain and regularly update an asset protection plan becomes more urgent.

To legally shield wealth from lawsuits and other potential threats, including divorce, business owners of all types should have an asset protection plan. This multi-layered strategy involves a range of techniques to title assets such as homes, savings and property (tangible and intangible) in the event that a claim is brought against the business or owner. It’s not a guarantee that the protected person will avoid lawsuits or other financial calamities, but it can guarantee they’ll lose fewer assets if the worstdoes happen.

I advise clients to work with an attorney to create a plan that’s the best fit for their specific financial situation. Clients should: 1) educate themselves, 2) inventory their wealth, 3) assess their liabilities, 4) decide the best asset protection tactic or strategy to use with each asset inventoried, and 5) execute the plan.

• Educate yourself. Clients should understand what’s going on when theirattorney is creating theirplan, how it relates to their life, and what changes will trigger the need for an update. They should learn what they can and can’t transfer as well as whothey should and shouldn’t transfer assets to, even temporarily. For instance, if they “gift” a home to their children shortly after or in proximity to a civil claim filed against them, in the event of a judgment that gift may be looked upon as a fraudulent transfer. It could be reversed, making their home susceptible to the creditor judgment. Education is key to maintaining long-term asset protection.The Presser Law Firm, P.A. offers complimentary books on asset protection and an asset protection worksheet at www.AssetProtectionAttorneys.com; submit a request in the contact form.

• Inventory your wealth. They should include both tangible and intangible financial recourses. Tangible assets include but are not limited to: their home, real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, boats, etc. Intangible assets include but are not limited to: patents, copyrights, franchises, goodwill, trademarks, domain names and trade names, etc.

• Assess your liabilities, present and future. Some present liabilities could include current creditors (whether or not they have claims against the client), personal guarantees on home or business loans, and the client’s marital status as well as longevity of your marriage. Future liabilities include unexpected potential financial risks. A failing business in an economy downturn is a good example.Surely many businesses didn’t contemplate their demise in the financial and economic crash of 2008. Those owners without anasset protection plan in place prior to 2008 were out of luck when their life savings, homes, real estate and other wealthy were jeopardized by creditor lawsuits. The best advice fore-commerce business owners is to be proactive – the threat of a suit can bring a business to its knees and the best way to protect themselvesis to practice financial self-defense and lawsuit-proof their assets.

• Decide whether or not to re-title their assets, what entity formations to use, and whether equity stripping is appropriate for assets still inadequately protected. Only non-exempt assets need to be re-titled. Exempt assets are those that cannot be seized in the event of a judgment. All non-exempt assets should be re-titled as exempt assets and/or transferred to more protected entities such as a Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnership or Family Limited Partnership, to name a few. Each entity has its own advantages and disadvantages and each person may have specific needs that make one of these entities more advantageous than the others. Alternatively, these assets can be titled to either domestic or international trusts. International trusts, such as the NEVIS trust, are especially protective because the laws of most preferred international trust locations favor the owner of the trust over creditors. Any unprotected assets can be stripped of their equity. For example, taking out a loan on a home that the client owns free and clear would make them more undesirable to a creditor than if they had full equity in the home.

• Implement the plan and maintain the protection over the years. Asset protection plans should be reviewed at least once a year and whenever there is a potential for litigation. Also, integrating an estate plan into anasset protection plan is essential because an unexpected death intestate could tie up an estate in litigation for years.

Asset protection is important for all business owners in today’s litigious society. E-commerce businesses are even more vulnerable to lawsuits and potentially have more assets to protect. Business owners should enlist the assistance of anasset protection attorney to create, implement and help maintain a lawsuit-proof plan, and they should have an estate plan as well.

About Hillel L. Presser

Hillel L. Presser’s firm, The Presser Law Firm, P.A., represents individuals and businesses in establishing comprehensive asset protection plans. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Management and Nova Southeastern University’s law school, and serves on Nova’s President’s Advisory Council. The Presser Law Firm, P.A. offers complimentary books on asset protection and an asset protection worksheet to help you create an inventory at www.AssetProtectionAttorneys.com; submit a request in the contact form.

 
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