Category Archives: Trending

Student Loan Debt and What to Do about it

Oh the places youd go if you weren't riddled with student loan debt

By, Attorney Ginger Kelly, November 9, 2017

According to US News, about half of all Massachusetts workers have some sort of bachelor’s degree.  That means high rates of student debt plague our state. But even worse, according to the Boston Globe, over 50% of college students in Boston drop out of college. That leaves even more people strapped by student loan debt without a degree.

When the national average for student loan debt almost reaches the $38,000 mark, it’s no wonder why student debt is becoming truly a national crisis. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. For some college grads, the best strategy is to be aggressive with paying back student loans.

For one college grad, Meghan from Boston, who paid  back her student debt within five years, it was all about prioritizing. “It’s possible if you want it badly enough,” she said. Meghan itemized her debt wish list and named her reasons for wanting to be debt free. Writing down your reasons helps to keep you on your journey. Being able to refer back to those reasons helps to overcome challenges and to remember why you’re making sacrifices.

Another college grad, Jason, felt overwhelmed while trying to pay the minimum on his $45,000 student loans.  So he took a different path and got serious about paying down his student debt. He reviewed every portion of his bank account, tightened spending, worked two jobs, and established a “done with debt” deadline. This helped Jason pay off his student loan debt in less than a year. Jason said that he kept spending very low and worked hard at his corporate job and also side job to pay off debt.

Aggressive payment plans are fine for some, but for those with small children and other priorities, aggressively paying off student loan debt is not always practical or attainable. Never the less, a few tips for grads may be helpful, while keeping in mind that every situation is quite different.

Start saving during the grace period: Use the grace period to review repayment options and figure out what is most affordable for your situation.

Choose a short repayment plan: Try to choose the shortest repayment plan you can afford, if you can do this without eating cat food and borrowing your sister’s car constantly. Although extended payment plans have lower monthly payments, the total interest will more than double for doubling the time.

Pay off expensive loans first, with one caveat: Some financial gurus believe that prioritizing paying off loans with the highest interest rate first is a good idea. But because not all situations are the same, this may not be the best strategy for getting out of debt quickly. Each situation is different. More on this to follow.

Trade your service for your debt: Certain programs, such as AmeriCorps, erase part or even all of a federal student loan. A year of service at AmeriCorps can pay for around $5,645 of your loan. Honestly, I know of no one who paid off their student loans by volunteering in AmeriCorps, but it’s an idea that’s out there.

Keep close contact with your lender: Be sure to tell your lender if you plan on moving or changing your phone number or email address. If they need to contact you but you are unavailable, this could add to your costs. Running the risk of missing payments or other important information is not an option.

Enroll in an ACH direct payment withdrawal option: Enrolling in ACH direct payment withdrawals will not only keep you from missing your payments, it allows for a .25% interest reduction rate for all federal loans and most private loans.

Those are the tips most financial gurus tell us.  However, most folks aren’t going to pay off their student debt by volunteering in AmeriCorps. But it’s an option. Most folks don’t work for in a low paying public service job, nor do they want to. Public service is only an option, not the only path.

Most people, graduates especially, have different types of debt and families with children. People in this category may choose to reduce or pay off their overall debt and just pay the minimum on lower-interest student loan debt until it makes sense to pay this off with a more aggressive student loan payment plan in the future.

*More about paying off expensive loans first: Although this makes perfectly good sense in some situations, the reality of life is that this is not always the best plan. Alternatively, it’s may be a better idea to lower your debt using a different strategy, like zero interest transfer options.

To start on the path to a zero interest transfer option, begin by paying down higher balance debt first and watch your credit scores climb. Then, find one or two zero interest transfer options to get rid of expensive debt and provide more time to pay off overall debt. For a little more in-depth discussion about balance transfer options read,  “When balance transfers make good sense” by Attorney Ginger Kelly.

But it’s not always all about paying down student loans; becoming debt free and more comfortable in your own financial shoes is really about analyzing the total debt you have and working a strategy that makes good sense from a credit bureau point of view.

Total debt to income is what really hurts a person’s ability to feel more confident, secure and to enjoy life a little better. If you want to make a change for the better, maybe get out of your parent’s basement quicker, work on your student loans after trying these strategies. Notice, I did not say simple strategies. They aren’t simple and take time. So be patient. Patience is a virtue, so they say.

1. Lower your total debt to credit ratio: Prioritize personal and consumer loans (like credit cards) to lower your total percent of used to unused credit and really make your credit scores soar. Doing this will lower your total debt to available credit ratio. Having higher percentages of unused credit for all your debt will lower your debt threshold and increase your credit scores. Higher credit scores are what you need to get lower high interest rates or no interest credit card introductory rates with low fee balance transfer options. This plan is not instantaneous (like most good things), but over a year or less many college grads, and people in general, can increase their credit scores 50 to 100 points or more. But wait. Besting your best credit scores isn’t all there is to it.

2. Don’t close old credit card accounts. Then, never ever close old credit card accounts. Keep them, at least for a long while until your 100% confident it makes no sense to have better credit scores. Closing old accounts will damage your credit scores. Damaging credit scores while paying off debt can take you back to square one. Keep old credit cards and move on to the next step.

3. Find zero or low interest balance transfer cards, and use them. With a credit score of 700 or better, don’t run out and finance a new car but rather, find the best lower interest or no interest balance transfer cards by looking, very hard, online. Do the research and find the best deals and then transfer balances from higher interest credit cards to lower or zero balance cards.

Many times, frugal websites like Andy Prescot’s “The Art of Being Cheep”
help with the initial research. Nerdwallet.com and MagnifyMoney.com are also helpful websites. Magnify Money has a great chart on the best balance transfer credit cards and an idea of what kind of credit scores you need to get them.

4. Use the zero balance time to aggressively pay down all revolving debt. With a zero or low interest credit card introductory rate, take this time to aggressively pay down all your credit cards. This will help your credit to grow.

5. Now it’s time to say good bye to student loans. At this point, with better than average credit scores, you have placed yourself in the best position possible to become more pro-active regarding paying down student loan debt. Student debt tends to be the lowest interest debt most people have. So why not make the most of the bargain and aggressively pay down this type of debt last and not first. Manage your debt before you debt manages you.

If there is no way to pay down your debt or debt is managing you, or even killing you, talk to a good consumer debt lawyer or bankruptcy lawyer immediately. Sometimes, they can advise you on which debt to pay first or not and whether or not bankruptcy is an option to explore. Most offer free first consultations.

My advice to people is to find at least three lawyers who offer free first consultations. Visit all three and compare. Pick the lawyer that makes the best sense to you, one that you can talk to, and then stick with that lawyer. Not all lawyers are perfect, remember this. But finding a good adviser who can help you manage your finances and deal with overwhelming consumer and student loan debt is like finding gold when you least expect it.
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ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture. To find out more, visit, http://www.attorneykelly.com or call us at (508) 784-1444.
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NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2017 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under balance transfers, Bankruptcy, credit card debt, Debt, Empowerment, Financial, Financial Planning, Massachusetts, practical stuff, Student Loan Debt, Trending, Uncategorized

Defending Debt Collections in Court: 6 Amazing Ways to Score Big Time

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Defending Debt Collections in Court: 6 Amazing Ways to Score Big Time

By Attorney Ginger Kelly
October 5, 2017

The New York Times ran a story in 2012 about the outpouring of credit card debt lawsuits being filed. They compared this widespread outbreak to the “robo-signing” fiasco which plagued the mortgage industry in years past. Now it seems the debt collection industry has taken up “robo-lawsuits” and are filing thousands of lawsuits a day all across America, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Lawsuits are being filed with the expectation that 99% of all defendants will not answer. In 2017, this is still a big problem.

Lots of people people being taken to court by debt collectors and lenders, many of them don’t owe a dime.  This is the new trend, plaguing thousands upon thousands of consumers in America today.

The biggest problem with these debt collection lawsuits is that about 90% of them are flawed. Debt collectors cannot prove that they are the ones owed the money.  They cannot prove how much money is owed, if any.  This is where consumers must take charge. Knowledge is power. Knowing things the debt collectors wish you didn’t know will often place you in the driver’s seat when it comes to Debt Collection law suits.

1. Start at the Beginning, Answer the Lawsuit.

If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, you will receive a summons (typically in the mail). Many people ignore these types of summons, because they look like ordinary mail. Within the summons is a complaint. The complaint has a date to respond and instructions on how to file an answer.  Take note of the instructions and, if you like, look for a form to respond to the complaint.  In Massachusetts, Mass.gov has forms that can help you in small claims or in district court.  These forms can be easily filled out. You must remember to respond to the lawsuit, either personally or through your lawyer, by the date specified in the court papers. This will preserve your rights in court. It’s simple and doing maintains your right to challenge the debt in court.

Even if you owe this debt, a two-sentence response denying liability to the lawsuit filed in court will suffice. When you do this, chances are your law suit will likely lead to a negotiated settlement. This will save you money in the long run, because most of the time the debt amount is inaccurate. The number one mistake people make when they are sued is failing to respond to the notice in the complaint.

In your answer, you can simply Admit, Deny or express Lack of Knowledge to each statement made by the plaintiff debt collector. Of course you don’t admit to any statement unless you know it’s 100% true, so be honest. Don’t guess. If you don’t know whether or not, for example, the account number listed is your credit card number, or the debt amount is actually the amount of money owed, deny the claim. The same is true for all the allegations. If you do not understand what the plaintiff is saying, you should say, Lack of Knowledge. Lack of Knowledge simply means you don’t know whether that statement is true or not. Then, take your answer to the clerk of court and file it. Mail a copy to the other side. Ask the clerk the proper procedure for making copies and mailing.  Better yet, don’t bother taking chances or taking the day off from work to file papers with the clerk, talk to your lawyer and bring in the big guns to fight this for you. Pay your attorney to hassle with the paperwork.

Even if you don’t have an attorney, don’t be shy or embarrassed. Filing an answer doesn’t mean you want to avoid paying your debts. It only means you are a smart consumer. It means that you want the debt collector to do his job and prove their allegations against you. In any business transaction, it is always best to be sure that you actually owe the correct amount before paying it. The same applies to debt collection law suits. This is why you file a simple answer.

2. Find Out Who, Exactly, Owns the Right to Take You to Court

The collection agency must prove they have the right to collect this debt, if you ask them. This is their job. Make them work. All collection agencies have a duty to provide good evidence of a transfer of the signed credit card agreement, but only if you ask. If you don’t ask, they have no duty. So, if you ask and the other side does not produce paperwork, you you don’t understand it, ask the magistrate or the judge to dismiss the case.  When the plaintiff does not have the “chain of custody” paperwork giving them the right to collect this debt from you, they lose.

It’s rather enjoyable when a judge or magistrate takes a good look at the chain of custody paperwork many debt collectors provide. Some of them shake their head. Then, they dismiss the case. It’s that simple.

Mass Legal Help is a great website that gives examples of how to answer and challenge a debt collections law suit in a simple and complete manner.

3. Make the Debt Collector Prove the Amount Owed, Why Not?

This is a good one. In most debt collection law suits, there are so many charges upon charges, and fees no one understands, it’s not funny. Make the debt collection agency prove the amount owed by simply asking them to provide the original signed agreement and a balance on the account from zero to the present. If they can’t prove what you owe, the judge will not be able to make a ruling and will dismiss the case.  If they hand you a huge stack of paper, don’t feel threatened.  Either ask for them to show you what the papers mean, or ask for a continuance so you can examine the documents.

I talk a little bit more about this in my article, Debt Collection and 7 Deadly Sins. Take a quick look at point 3. Greed. This may help you.

4. Use the Statute of Limitations, Like a Boss

State law provides that debt collectors have a maximum amount of years they can legally sue you for debt they think you owe. This is different than collections.

A debt collector can bill you forever, but a debt collector cannot sue you in court to collect beyond the statute of limitations period. But again, a person needs to use this as a defense in court for it to be effective. When that statute of limitations period expires, the debt collector will lose if you defend using the statute of limitations. Use this as a defense and get your lawsuit dismissed. If it applies, it works!

Currently, the statute of limitations for almost any type of consumer debt in Massachusetts is six (6) years (MGL Chapter 260 Sec. 2)  In Rhode Island, it’s different.  Under Title 9, in Rhode Island, the statute of limitations for contracts and open accounts (credit cards), is ten (10) Years.  (RIGL 9-1-13(a))

In legal terms, a debt that has exceeded the statute of limitations is also called a “time barred” debt. When, exactly, the statute begins (or begins to toll), is different for different debt and for different state laws.  For credit card debt, typically the statute begins to toll from the date you made your last payment. You can find more info on Time barred debt defenses in Massachusetts in the online Mass law library.

There may be other legal arguments about the statute of limitations, like the conflict of laws and the significant relationships test. But essentially, the statute of limitations for most debt in Massachusetts is six years from the date of the debtor’s last transaction, or payment, on the account. Ask your attorney, if you have any questions and want to know if this statute applies in your case.

5. Sue the Debt Collector, Big Time

If a debt collector has violated any part of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), you may be able to sue them and could get a money damage award.  Consumers can successfully sue for violations of the debt collections practices act and are entitled to statutory damages of $1,000, plus punitive and economic damages.

This is where debt collection law suits can be actually quite enjoyable, for me anyway.  For you, maybe not so much.  As a lawyer, this is what I’ve been trained to do.

There’s nothing wrong with finding violations. Holding debt collectors to the higher standard they are called to perform is the right thing to do. Holding their feet to the fire, so to speak, is what’s best for consumers. This is why it’s not a bad idea to hire a lawyer to file a well-drafted answer to the complaint and attend court with you.

6. Explore Bankruptcy, the Fresh Start Option

If the debt you have is more than you can manage or the debt you are being sued for is large, it may make good sense to talk to an attorney. A good bankruptcy attorney will help you discover whether or not filing for bankruptcy is an option for you.

Filing for bankruptcy will keep you protected by the automatic stay, which will halt any and all debt collection efforts being made against you. If you are thinking about filing bankruptcy, talk to an attorney quickly. Don’t wait until the day before you are supposed to be in court. Lawyers can’t typically file bankruptcy paperwork the next day. That’s not how bankruptcies work. Bankruptcies are very paper-work intensive and tedious. To find out more read Bankruptcy, the Easy Way Out, Really? 

While it is possible to successfully defend a debt collection lawsuit, it’s often very difficult and emotionally charged. If the debt collection agency is successful in court, they can get a judgment entered against you. This, in turn, would allow the collection agency to garnish your wages or even go after your bank accounts or place liens on your home, vehicles or other property.

I tell all my clients that debt collection law suits are like traffic tickets. It never pays to ignore them. Reply to the summons. Go to court. What do you have to lose? But better than just “winging-it,” speak to a good bankruptcy and debtor defense lawyer first. Some law offices like ours, offer a free first consultation. When you hire a good debtor defense lawyer to help, there are virtually a hundred or more different defenses that can be used to protect you against garnishments and attachments.

Currently, we are taking defendant clients for debt collection law suits. Our first consultation is free. I’m always happy to meet new clients and am willing to work around your schedule. Exploring your best options with an experienced attorney can’t get much easier. This is only one way we are transforming the way people do business with lawyers.

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ABOUT ME: Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture. To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.com or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE: This is an Advertisement. This post is not legal advice. Consult your attorney. Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet. Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other. We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney. Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice. Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2017 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under Bankruptcy, credit card debt, Debt, Debt Collection, Financial, Foreclosure, Hiring Counsel, Law, Lawsuits, Legal, Massachusetts, Massachusetts law, practical stuff, Rhode Island, Student Loan Debt, Trending, Uncategorized

When Balance Transfers Make Good Sense

farmers market 2

Last week, while at a Farmer’s Market, I met an old friend.  Instead of chatting about the price of carrots and cookies, we began talking about finances. I listened to her talk about the worries of being a social worker and how she was struggling with her six figure debt while surviving on her very small salary.  I asked her if she had credit card debt. She said, “Yes.” “And how’s your credit score?” I continued. “I think it’s pretty good, last time I checked,” she said. I then asked her, “Have you ever considered a balance transfer?” She didn’t say anything for a moment. She was thinking. Then she asked, “What’s a balance transfer?”

Do the Math

 Let’s make it simple. A balance transfer is moving debt from Bank A to Bank B in order to take advantage of a reduced or zero interest rate. Let’s use a hypothetical to illustrate. Let’s say that a person named Jane has $10,000 of credit card debt. Jane’s interest rate is 20% with Blue Bank.  Jane also has a good credit score of 700, and she makes payments to her Blue Bank card of $300 per month.

Jane is paying $3,600 a year.  Over the next 12 months, she is paying $1,845 of that $3,600.00, in interest. If Jane decides to take advantage of a balance transfer offer, she can move her debt to another bank and reduce her interest rate.  Jane looks around for offers.

To entice Jane, Yellow Bank offers a great interest rate or a no interest rate for a set period of time, which could be 6 months to 18 months. Yellow Bank wants Jane’s debt and hopes that if she opens a new credit card account; Jane will keep spending, pay later or do both. But even more, Yellow Bank hopes that Jane still has a balance to pay off at the end of the low-interest balance transfer period. This will give Yellow Bank more return on their risk because Jane will be paying higher interest rates.

Hypothetically, let’s say Jane decides to transfer her Blue Bank balance to Yellow Bank. This sort of transfer happens between two banks, not two bank accounts at the same bank.  If Jane moves her Blue Bank card debt to a Yellow Bank card with zero percent interest, she will be able to apply all her payment each month toward her principal.

According to MagnifyMoney’s tool, one balance transfer could save Jane $3,675. With multiple balance transfers, (giving Jane more time to pay off the balance) Jane may be able to save as much as $4,118.

But that’s not all.  There are fees and don’t forget the tricky introductory periods. Jane may have had to pay up to 5% to transfer her balance over from Blue Bank to Yellow Bank, which is $183.75.  But if you subtract the balance transfer fee from the interest Jane would have paid, Jane will still save about $3,491. Not too shabby.

Tricky Balance Transfer Fees and Introductory Periods

On the surface, a balance transfer looks straightforward, but make sure the balance transfer is truly worth it.  Balance transfer fees typically are 3%, 4% or even 5%.

According to UK market at researchers Consumer Intelligence, research indicates that 20% of consumers who transfer card balances, to get a better rate, never pay down their debt.  40% make late making monthly payments, 21% missed payments entirely, 10% pay less than intended and 23% have no idea why they suddenly were being charged interest.  A whopping 34% never pay their balances down before they are charged interest, something to keep in mind.  It happens to the best of us.

It’s OK to be somewhat concerned about the introductory period.  But don’t fret too much about being victimized by a “bait and switch” type banking scheme. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 stops banks from luring customers into a balance transfer and then drastically increasing the interest rate months later. Once you agree to a balance transfer at a set interest rate and period, you’re guaranteed the rate as long as you follow the rules. Banks can only cancel your promotional rate if you’re 60 days late with payments. Don’t be late, a cardinal rule.

Some cards have zero balance transfer fees and zero interest introductory rate offers.  Look for these. However, these are typically available to people with really good credit scores. We’ll talk a little bit about credit scores, in a moment.

In Jane’s hypothetical situation, if she does nothing, she pays $4,718 in interest over 50 months until the debt is paid off.  If she transfer’s once, she pays $1,043 in interest (at 1.7%) and fees over 37 months until the debt is paid off.  If Jane transfers her debt multiple times, she will likely pay less in interest and fees over 36 months until her debt is paid off. More often than not, for users with good credit scores, lower “promotional” interest rates more than make up for the fees spent on transfers.

Messing Up Good Credit Scores

Credit scores often drop, depending upon how a balance transfer is accomplished.  First, any hard credit inquiry when opening an account is a bad mark on a credit score.  But how bad is that bad mark?  It depends.

According to Quizzle, a free credit score report website, it is quite probable that every hard inquiry into your credit report will cause a drop of three to five points in your credit score.

Maxine Sweet, Experian’s vice president of public education, told The Huffington Post that recent hard inquiries “account for very few negative points in scoring models and are even less negative within a few months.”

Beware, however, if you are trying to refinance or buy a new home or car, in the near future, it may be best not to ding a good credit score before you finance the big purchase. According to a website called Credible, there are ways to protect your credit scores from the dings received by hard inquiries.

In our hypothetical, if Jane decided that she didn’t want to lower her credit score she would be placing an economic value of about $943.60 on each point she chose not to lose. This doesn’t make sense, if Jane has no intention of refinancing or purchasing a new home within the next 1 to 2 years and she already has good credit. In Jane’s situation, it seems rather penny wise and pound foolish not to take advantage of a balance transfer offer and save the $4,718.00 in interest, over the course of about 50 months.

What to do with Old Credit Cards

It’s also good to know that opening a new account lowers the average age of the overall credit profile, but canceling an old card after transferring a balance really puts a negative ding on the credit scores. That’s not good because again, lowering credit scores might mean higher costs in other areas of life, like renting an apartment, starting a business, purchasing a home, refinancing student loans or trying to buy or re-finance a home.

If a zero interest balance transfer makes good economic sense to you, and you’ve done the math, it’s probably best in most circumstances to keep the old credit card account open, provided new balances are not run up on the card.

Balance Transfer Rules of the Road

  1. Don’t miss payments — ever.
  2. Typically, you have only 60 days to complete the transfer. Do this or lose the promotional interest rate.
  3. Don’t close your old card.
  4. Don’t use the new card to rack up more debt. In some cases, interest will immediately start accruing on the new purchases (unless there is a 0 percent purchase offer). As a general rule, it is best not to use the card since the goals is to pay off the debt.
  5. Never use the card at an ATM for a cash advance, especially don’t do it with a balance transfer card.

Finding a Balance Transfer

As a general rule, to qualify for a balance transfer, you’ll need a credit score of 680 or better.  According to Nick Clements, co-founder of financial products comparison website, MagnifyMoney, “Banks are looking for ‘high-balance, low-risk’ customers.” This means that your credit card debt is probably less than $20,000 and you always pay on time, and are likely paying the minimum due or just a bit more. If you have had credit for a while, MagnifyMoney offers a free balance transfer calculator for consumers carrying credit card debt.

When to Avoid a Balance Transfer

A balance transfer can be a simple way to slash interest rates and amount of time it takes to pay off debt. But it isn’t necessarily right for everyone. “If you can pay off your debt in six months or less, or can’t afford multiple transfers, than it probably is not worth doing a balance transfer.

If you have debt that you can’t possibly manage, and have little or no hope of paying it off, talk to a good Bankruptcy lawyer now.  There are more ways to skin a cat.  In other words, your helpful lawyer may have great ideas on how you can become virtually debt free and save most of the things you own, like your car, your savings and your home.

Lower Credit Scores, Now What?

If you have a lot of credit card debt and a credit score below 680, you may not qualify for a balance transfer, but no worries. You can still reduce your interest rates by using a personal loan. Ask your local bank or check out websites like Lending Club or Prosper

These websites allow you to pre-qualify for a personal loan, using soft inquiry rather than a hard inquiry on your credit report. The soft inquiry doesn’t cause a drop in credit score points, but as we mentioned before.  The hard inquiry will.

Some Things Just Make Good Sense, Some Don’t

Unless you are in the process of buying or refinancing a home or financing something big, and you’ve got the golden ticket of a 680 credit score or higher, it just doesn’t make good sense to pay high credit card interest rates. Do the math.  Figure it out. Even my friend from the Farmer’s Market now has a plan to help manager her debt, even with her meager social worker salary.

If a Balance Transfer Makes no sense and your debt getting way out of hand, you know what to do.  Good bankruptcy lawyers typically don’t charge for a first consultation. Find a good bankruptcy lawyer, set up your free consultation and see if a fresh start is right for you.

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The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting new clients.  Call and schedule your first appointment.  We are a small law office offering your first confidential consultation, absolutely free of charge.

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ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.com, visit us at Ginger B. Kelly on Facebook or feel free to call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We cannot stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2017, by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

 

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June 29, 2017 · 4:22 pm

When will the Massachusetts Ballot Questions become law?

ballot-questions

Now we know the election results in Massachusetts.  We had a few ballot questions, four to be exact.  Ballot questions are not laws that deal with taxes, but they are real issues that deal with policy. Ballot questions are policy issues that affect the quality of life in Massachusetts.

To understand a bit about ballot question law in Massachusetts, and when these questions may or may not become law, it is important to understand a little about the ballot question drafting process.

Each ballot question, also called an “indirect initiated state statute question“, is essentially a proposal regarding some sort of Massachusetts policy, made by concerned citizens.  Law-makers of either the Senate or the House of Representatives or both do not draft these types of laws.  Concerned citizens draft the proposed laws.

Concerned citizens take information on the topics that are important to them and draft proposals on the law.  The drafts may be redrafted a few times until the final draft comes out in the form of a ballot question.  The ballot question proposals must have petition signatures.  Then, the Massachusetts state legislatures, the Massachusetts State Attorney General and the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) all play a roll in the approval process.  In the final step, the ballot question proposals or petitions finally become approved as Massachusetts state ballot questions.  If approved, the Massachusetts ballot question will become law.  Learn more about this process, here.

If approved, the dates the laws will take effect are drafted into the law itself.  The way the law was written or drafted, is the way the law will be interpreted.  The dates these laws will take effect or become actual enforceable state law, are included in the draft petitions.  In other words, effective dated are always drafted or written directly into the petitions that become final ballot questions.

Below, is the list of Ballot questions Massachusetts citizens voted on November 8th, 2016 and when they will become law.

Question 1 · Allows the state gaming commission to issue an additional slot parlor license.  Massachusetts voted No, by 61%

Since a “No” vote will leave the law as-is, there is no question as to when this law will be enacted.

Question 2 · Allows the Board of Education to approve up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in current charter schools each year.  Massachusetts voted No, by 62%.

Since a “No” vote will leave the charter school cap as it stands, there is no question as to when this law will be enacted.  There are no changes to the law.

Question 3 · Prohibits selling farm products from animals not raised in spaces that meet a minimum size requirement.  Massachusetts voted Yes, by 78%

Because this law was approved, this law will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

Question 4 · Allows the possession, use, distribution, and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana by persons age 21 and older.  Massachusetts voted Yes, by 54%.

Because this law has passed, this law will take effect December 15, 2016 and stores could open by early 2018.

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The Law Office of Ginger B. Kelly is now accepting new clients.  Call and schedule your first appointment.  We are a small law office offering your first confidential consultation, absolutely free of charge.

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ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Her law practice is focused on consumer debt, finance, bankruptcy and District Court matters. Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work. On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.

To find out more, visit, www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015, 2016 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Facebook Posts can Land You in Jail

One does not simply post on Facebook

Posting whatever you want on Facebook might not be a good idea, as in the case of Ebony Dickens of East Point Georgia.

Based on an April 30, 2015 report on CNN, Ebony Dickens, of East Point, Georgia, posted threats to the police under the name, Tiffany Milan, on social media.  According to CNN, she posted this on Facebook, “I thought about shooting every white cop I see in the head until I’m either caught by the police or killed by them. Ha!!!! I think I can pull it off. Might kill at least 15 tomorrow, I’m plotting now.”

Soon after Ms. Dickens posted the threats, she deleted her Tiffany Milan Facebook account.  She erased all her threatening posts.  But that didn’t matter.  Erasing the threats didn’t help.  She already published them to others.  By virtue of her Facebook posts, Ms. Dickens got arrested.  She was arrested not only by the local authorities, but by homeland security.  Apparently, Ms. Dickens “allegedly” violated local law, but State and Federal law.  I say, “allegedly” because Ms. Dickens case is still pending.  Even so, it’s important to look at US free speech law and why, oftentimes, comments made on Facebook aren’t protected speech.

Based on this story, making Facebook posts about shooting the cops using a fake name may not be a good idea. Protected and lawful speech, of any kind, does not involve making true threats, using fighting words to incite violence and cyber-bullying.  Ranting on Facebook, or anywhere, may not always be a good idea, no matter appealing it may seem to be for some.  First Amendment Freedom of Speech law is a not a get-out-of-jail free card for offenses like these.  Freedom of Speech rights do not make one immune from arrest and jail. People can also file civil suits against others for making certain kinds of speech.

Under the First Amendment of the US Constitution, people can get arrested for speech involving obscenity, child pornography, misleading commercial speech, fighting words, cyber bullying and true threats. For example, free speech does not include (for no good reason) yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  This is a classic example.  People get arrested and end up in jail for telling others, “I’m going to kill you.” Also, making up stories about others is not always harmless. For example, telling someone your friend has “Ebola,” or somethings similar, when in fact they do not, can get a person in a lot of legal trouble.

In the business world, free speech does not include making unsupported claims.  When a commercial producer claims their product “builds strong bodies 12 ways,” or wants to show that their product is healthy, the producer and all the stakeholders better support this sort of claim with strong evidence.  Commercial claims may be unprotected speech, provided there is no proof behind such claims.

Cartoons and political satire, like the Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed, is an example of a form of US free speech. Under US law, cartoonists and artists may publish political cartoons and politically charged satire.  This is considered protected free speech. Under the laws of other countries, such cartoonist speech is not always protected. Whether or not political cartoons are always wise or prudent to publish remains controversial. Even so, there is no complete list of US constitutional freedom of speech examples that explain what does or does not constitute freedom of speech.

Concerning freedom of speech and the laws of free speech, each situation and every fact pattern is not the same.  Each person and each legal case is different.  This is why a professional legal analysis of every situation is important. This type of case-by-case basis legal examination is what legal professionals call, “fact-intensive” legal analysis.  Fact intensive legal analysis is what lawyers and judges are trained to do.  This is why it’s always important to consult your lawyer and be sure to ask them any legal questions regarding freedom of speech guarantees, the US Constitution or any law, before you act or draw conclusions about legal matters.

Under First Amendment free speech, free speech does not include true threats.  However, treats made in humor or funny stories, like exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally, tends to be protected speech in certain circumstances.  For example, Saturday Night Live, (“SNL”), a comedy show shown on TV on Saturday night, has made sketches mocking the blind and making racist jokes about people who go to Starbucks, (things like this).  SNL made a fake video defaming Thailand. These were shocking and offensive to a lot of folks. SNL poked fun at real people. Comedians verbalized threats and violence.

Humor performed by professional comedians or published by professional cartoonists is considered protected speech. Jokes, cartoons, sketches and speech, shared by professional comedians and artists is part of what they do for good reasons. Professional comedians, cartoonists, artists and the like, create artistic and scientific works that benefit the public.  Often, artistic work involves sarcastic comedy, political satire, parody and shocking artistic work that may involve certain forms of pornography. Legality of the free speech and the intent of that speech (which is one of many legal elements that must be shown) is quite often determined by the virtue of one’s profession.

The intent of an artist, by virtue of the artistic profession, is to add artistic value to most people and the general public, whether or not this is shocking to a few individuals.  The intent of a comedian, by virtue of the comedic profession, is to entertain and invoke thought, discussion and to inject humor or satire into a skit or cartoon, not to cause specific harm to others.  Many times, these forms of free speech are political in nature.  Political figures and political issues are permissible targets of free speech.  Not everyone or everything fits into this category. Every case is different.

Even on occasion, even comedians and artists get into legal trouble.  For example, if an artist took an artistic work too far and people filed legal cases against them, this is perfectly legal if the claim is not frivolous.  The Court will determine a frivolous case and have it dismissed, when necessary.  Every case must be examined by the facts and the nature of the speech published, be it in writing, on any form of medium or orally (by word of mouth).  Every case must look at the platform of delivery, the person publishing the speech and, in some cases, who the speech was intended for or the intended message and audience.

As you may have guessed, there is a lot look at when it comes to Free Speech rights and Constitutional laws regarding freedom of speech.  Examples are only a snapshot.  I can only give you a general snapshot of this topic.  But remember, US First Amendment free speech is never a get-out-of-jail-free ticket that gives a person unconditional immunity from arrest, jail or a civil lawsuit.  The story of Ebony Dickens is a perfect example.  Posting threats to the cops on Facebook or anywhere, is one reason why quite often posting things on Facebook can land a person in court or worse, jail.

by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., May 19, 2015

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ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Her law practice is focused on consumer finance and bankruptcy.  However, Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work.  On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.  To find out more visit, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com or http://www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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Filed under Arrest, Civil, Criminal, First Amendment, Free Speech, Law, Legal, Police, Trending

Hidden Truth, Legal Rights for Chimps

Photo Credit: Reuters

Photo Credit: Reuters

The hidden truth about legal rights for Hercules and Leo, the NY Chimpanzees making history 

There is great speculation that two Chimpanzees from Long Island NY have been given special human legal rights by a Supreme Court Justice.  The Court issued a Habeas Corpus.  Does this now mean that the chimps are legal persons?  Are the chimps legally obligated to comply with the court order?  There’s a hidden secret, a secret truth, which will tell us the answer about how human legal rights can work for chimpanzees, under the law. The secret is hidden in the law of the Habeas and by the nature of how the Court works.

This case involves an animal rights type of legal action involving the question of protection for two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo.  Animal rights activists, the Nonhuman Rights Project, are the plaintiffs.  Stony Brook University, Long Island NY and the president of Stony Brook University, Samuel M. Stanley Jr., MD, are the named defendants.  The defendants are the legal owners of the chimps and are holding them in captivity, the crux of the legal issue for the animal rights activist plaintiffs.

On April 20, 2015, a Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Habeas”) was issued by the Supreme Court Justice in this case, Barbara Jaffee.  The legal question involves why the University should be legally permitted to hold in captivity, the chimpanzees Hercules and Leo.  The Habeas was intended to serve justice in this matter.

A Writ of Habeas Corpus is a court order, mandating or commanding that the custodian of a prisoner (person/human) must release the prisoner and bring them up into court and show cause why the prisoner should remain in lawful imprisonment. In Blacks Law Dictionary and other Law Dictionaries, Habeas Corpus is a Latin legal term of art meaning, “bring up the body.”

In the case of Hercules and Leo, the Habeas compels their captor, Stony Brook University, not the chimps, to release the chimps from captivity.  It allegedly hails the chimps, the “alleged” prisoners to bring them into Court (as a practical matter, they are to be released from “bondage”, or captivity).   The Habeas also compels the defendants to show cause (give a good reason) why they should continue to hold Leo and Hercules in captivity.  This is what the Habeas means, in the context of this trial.

The Habeas gives the defendants a choice.  Bring up the prisoners, by releasing them from bondage, or show the court why the chimps should continue to be legally held. This is what must be done.  The Habeas is a tool, typically used in criminal trials when prisoners need to be hailed into court for things like arraignment, suppression hearings and other hearings and at trial.

In order to understand whether or not the Habeas imparts some special human right upon chimps, we must examine the intent of Justice Jaffee, the nature of the Habeas and a few other things, discussed by the following three points.

Point #1:  If animals were given human legal rights, consider the practical and legal impact upon the US court system.

If one small human right was given to any animal, like a train with many cars, others will follow.  Giving animals a Habaes is one thing, but giving them legal rights to be treated like prisoners doesn’t mean giving them the right to vote the right to a fair trial or other things reserved for humans.  There’s the legal right to a jury of one’s peers to face your accusor, and on and on and on.  These issues are not likely a Pandora’s box of legal and practice problems Justice Jaffee intended to open.

It’s a dangerous slippery slope.  Would a jury box full of chimpanzees be something Justice Jaffee had in mind? What would be the cost?  Are we to re-invent the ballot box, making it suitable for chimpanzee fingers and toes? How would a fish take the witness stand?  Then there is the matter of a fair and impartial court interpreter. Imagine, a chimpanzee court interpreter, wearing pants – not so easy to unthink.

Indulge your imagination.  Should dolphins be given the right to a fair trial, simply because they are intelligent and highly social creatures?  Where would an Elephant sit in the jury box?  You got it.  An elephant would sit anywhere he wants!  All kidding aside, if animals were given legal rights, our court system and legal system would be a mess.  Government would become chaotic and obsolete. Furthermore, giving animals human legal rights is nothing short of tyranny for animals.

Point #2:  If animals were given human legal rights, the intent of lawmakers would be abolished.  

Human rights, basic and essential legal rights, are provided for humans by humans.  The courts were made by humans for humans. Animals did not create our legal system.  The legislative intent of our court systems, our law, is to keep order and maintain justice for humans, not animals.  Our legal system was made to provide justice, not chaos.  Chaos is quite the opposite of justice.

The human interpretation and concept of courtroom is important. Chimpanzees and other animals stand a good chance of not behaving like humans in court.  Chimps, like most animals, tend to have great difficulty controlling their urges and behavior.  Seldom do animals conduct themselves like humans. Seldom do animals behave like humans would expect or require, in a courtroom situation, to maintain order.  Animals are unpredictable, to varying degrees.  Lack or order is chaotic.  Humans need courtroom decorum and order, to perfect justice. Animals, maybe not so much.

Chimpanzees, if they were forced to comply with our court system, could not do so without severe and potentially bazaar legal outcomes. For example, in the matter of Travis the Chimp from Connecticut, a 200 lb. Chimpanzee decided to brutally rip the face and hands off of Charla Nash, his owner’s friend. If Travis the Chimp were still alive, should Travis have been given a jury of his peers? Would justice be served if  Travis was sentenced to death or life in prison? Would Travis be eligible for parole or appeal after appeal? Bringing chimps to court is not likely beneficial nor the intent of our legislatures. Giving chimps legal rights was not the likely intent of Justice Jaffee.

Furthermore, animals do not need humans. Animals govern themselves, however cruel we may think nature can be. Animals have basic ways of establishing their own social order. In the context science, animal social order is amazing. Groups of primates great each other in a certain way to invoke peace. Dolphins swim together in schools to catch fish. Gorillas groom each other to stay healthy and show acceptance.

Intelligent creatures like dolphins, primates and gorillas do quite well, without human intervention. This is essentially why Justice Jaffee probably does not intend to interfere with the social order of primates. In essence, justice is served best by allowing creatures to just be themselves.  Humans have done enough damage to animals.  As a matter of justice, humans have no business giving human legal rights to chimps.  Human intervention is one reason why it is said that Travis the Chimp did what he did and a big reason why why the law suit regarding Leo and Hercules is underway.

Furthermore, history has shown that it’s not always a good idea to tamper with the social order of other societies, unlike ours. This holds true for people as well as animals. Animals do a good job of establishing their own social order.

In the context of our human government, humans are expected to care for animals, that’s pretty much it. Humans have no obligation to create social conditions where animals are expected to conform to human behaviors, duties and expectations. Placing animals outside of their own animal-based social order places animals at risk. When humans take chimps outside of their own social order, law suits ensue, and animal rights activists get involved. Animal rights activists contend that humans have destroyed the chimps Hercules and Leo and they deserve a better life, outside of confinement.

But in the context of human government, laws were not intended to place animals on the same legal playing ground as humans.  This is not humane or sound.  Cruelty toward animals not only involves captivity but capacity.  Animals, like children, for varying reasons lack legal capacity.  Indeed, maintaining the intent of the law, designed by humans for humans, is inline with the intent of Justice Jaffee.

Point #3:  If animals were given human legal rights, the NY Habeas would not serve justice or invoke a correct result.  

The essential “secret” why Justice Jaffee ordered the Habeas for Hercules and Leo is in the way she used the Habeas.  She used the Habeas like a tool, a legal instrument.  This tool, if you will, insures that justice will be served.  Justice Jaffee used the Habeas to command the release of the chimps, probably into an animal sanctuary.  Because of the Habeas, unless the Defendants prove there is any legal and permissible exception to the release, Leo and Hercules will remain free in a safe place. The Chimps will remain precisely where Justice Jaffee believes they should be, for now.  She used the Habeas as a tool to invoke justice and compel a correct result.  The Habeas is a very powerful legal instrument, indeed.

Even so, granting the Habeas seems a little unorthodox, especially in a matter involving chimpanzees.  Justice Jaffee is quite clever.  If her intent was to use the Habeas to give the chimps some special human legal right.  If she did, the result would be unjust. On the contrary, Justice Jaffee used a legal tool within her power to compel the defendants do the right thing. Justice Jaffee used the Habeas as a tool to insure that justice is served.  In this way, the Habeas was used like an instrument, a tool to ferret out truth and compel legal order.

It’s reasonable to assume that Hercules and Leo will be in a better place, like an animal sanctuary.  The Chimps probably will not be hailed into court. They won’t be asked to testify. Justice is served by the Habeas, nothing more.  If the Chimps are not released, the defendants go directly to jail, do-not-pass-Go, end of story.

This is the other reason why Justice Jaffee used the Habeas.  The Habeas switched the burden of proof off the plaintiff’s shoulders and onto the defendants.  Now, the defendants must now show the court why it is legal for Leo and Hercules to be held in captivity by the University.  If Justice Jaffee didn’t use the Habeas, the plaintiffs bear this burden.  Legal tools, like a Habeas, are used all the time to create an environment to do what must be done.

Obviously, Justice Jaffee wanted to hear Stony Brook’s side of the story first and have the chimps released, for a time. The real issue is not whether Hercules and Leo have been given a legal right, just like humans.  Animal rights laws protect animals from cruel treatment by humans. This is how it is.  This is how the law works. The real issue has to do with the truth and the spin some would place on this subject.

The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) and Science Magazine and others want people to think chimpanzees have been given legal rights reserved for humans.  For readers, this sort of story is delightfully strange.  It is an unusual and newsworthy story about animals.  Unfortunately, it’s not about the truth. Statements like, for the “first time in world history,” a judge has recognized two chimpanzees being used for research purposes as “legal persons” and granted them a Writ of Habeas Corpus, are simply untrue. Statements like these put a spin on court case news. It’s a matter of news hype. News hype is intended to draw attention and stir our emotions.  News hype also invokes discussions and raises eyebrows. Discussions are not all that bad.  In fact, news is good.

So now you know the big secret. The truth is out.  It’s not about Chimps being given human legal rights. We aren’t reinventing our entire legal system. It’s not all that sensational. The secret is about the truth and how a New York Supreme Court Judge chose to use a legal instrument, the Habeas. The truth is found by the nature of the Habeas.  The truth lies in how the Habeas was used. The Habeas hopefully, will produce a fair and just result for everyone. This is truth.

Truth is good.  Rooting out the truth is what courts are all about.  Law is about truth. Law is what I do. Visit the about page of my website to find out more, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com/about/ 

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ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Her law practice is focused on consumer finance and bankruptcy.  However, Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work.  On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.  To find out more visit, www.attorneykelly.squarespace.com or http://www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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To be or not to be? The death penalty question.

To be or not to be? The death penalty question..

Comments Off on To be or not to be? The death penalty question.

Filed under Death Penalty, Law, Legal, Lethal Injection, Massachusetts, Trending, Trial

To be or not to be? The death penalty question.

death-penalty1

Photo credit to Stephenhicks.org

In wake of the Dzhokihar Tsarnaev jury verdict, the trend around social media is whether or not the death penalty should be abolished in the United States. No one is immune from the stories, the questions, the buzz, especially in Massachusetts.

Is the death penalty constitutional?  Does the death penalty deter crime?  Is the death penalty fair and just?  Is the use of the death penalty for sentencing, in all or some circumstances, considered cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Laws of the States?  What about people with mental incapacitates and serious IQ issues?  Should they die too?  Does race or economic status play a role? What about botched lethal injections and firing squad issues?  Then there’s the trendy “did you knows.”

Did you know that thirty two (32) US states plus the Military and the Federal government still have the death penalty?  Did you know that in 2013, the average murder rate of death penalty states was 4.4, while the average murder rate for states without the death penalty was only 3.4?  Did you know that since 1973, over 140 people on death row in the US have been found innocent and exonerated from their crimes?  It’s a lot to think about.

Because it is a lot to read, a lot to think about and Massachusetts inquiring minds can’t wait to know, below is a relatively brief state-by-state compilation (the low-down) of a few interesting facts on death penalty, lethal injections and so on.  Most of the information gathered is strictly online news and op-ed articles, so don’t rely upon it for anything substantial like a doctoral dissertation or expert opinion. The Death Penalty Information Center is a very good resourse for most Death Penalty facts.  Please keep in mind, this information has not been verified or fact-checked or cite-checked (see disclaimer, below).

The best way to absorb all this information is to look at it from top to bottom.  Just skim, don’t read it all.  You can then go back to look at the facts for the state or topic you like.  If you like, check out a trend that’s interesting and and compare, like murder rate.  If you want to learn more, come back.  Read an article or two later.  It’s a lot to absorb in one fell swoop.

“To be or not to be” is the real death penalty question.  Decide for yourself and take away a few cocktail party or BBQ cook-out talking points.

Please feel free to comment or question.  There is so much to talk about.

*Note: The Murder rates, below, are per 10,000 people in 2013.

Alaska – Murder rate* – 4.6; [No Death Penalty; Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Alabama – Murder rate* – 7.2; Current death row population: 198 (5 are women); Method: Choice of injection or electrocution; Death Penalty Crimes: Intentional murder with 18 aggravating factors (Ala. Stat. Ann. 13A-5-40(a)(1)-(18))

Arkansas – Murder rate* – 5.4; Death row population: 34 (0 are women); Method: Injection or choice of Injection or electrocution for crimes after 1983; Death Penalty Crimes: Capital murder (Ark. Code Ann. 5-10-101) with a finding of at least 1 of 10 aggravating circumstances; treason.

Arizona – Murder rate* – 5.4; Death row population: 124 (3 are women); Method: Injection / Choice of Gas Chamber if sentenced before 11/92; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder, including premeditated murder and felony murder, accompanied by at least 1 of 14 aggravating factors (A.R.S. § 13-703(F)).

California – Murder rate* – 5.4; Death row population: 743 (19 are women); Method: Injection / Choice of Gas Chamber; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with special circumstances; sabotage; train wrecking causing death; treason; perjury causing execution of an innocent person; fatal assault by a prisoner serving a life sentence. Trending: California’s stay of executions requiring lethal injections resulting in overcapacity of death row prison, according to a March 30, 2015 LA Times news article.  

Colorado – Murder rate* – 3.4; Death row population: 3 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes:First-degree murder with at least 1 of 17 aggravating factors; first-degree kidnapping resulting in death; treason.  Trending: CBS News: Colorado has no moratorium on the death penalty as the jury deliberates on the verdict of Colorado movie theater shooter, James Holmes.   In an April 17, 2015 poll by WBUR, the death penalty is becoming increasingly unpopular.

Connecticut – Murder rate* – 2.4; [Abolished the death penalty in 2012]

District of Columbia – Murder rate* – 15.9; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Delaware – Murder rate* – 4.2; Death row population: 17 (0 are women); Method: Injection or choice of injection of hanging for offenses prior to 6/13/86; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder (11 Del. C. § 636) with at least 1 statutory aggravating circumstance (11 Del. C. § 4209). Trending: April 1, 2015, Delaware Online states, the Delaware ex-prison warden says the Delaware death penalty creates an immeasurable burden on the prison system and doesn’t make the guards any safer.

Florida – Murder rate* – 5; Death row population: 403 (4 are women); Method: Choice of Injection or Gas Chamber; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder; felony murder; capital drug trafficking; capital sexual battery. Trending: The US Supreme Court has granted cert to consider the constitutionality of Florida’s sentencing scheme for capital cases and the use of the death penalty for mentally disabled criminals. Unlike Ohio and Oklahoma, no stay of executions has been granted in Florida as of March 9, 2015, according to a US News March 9, 2015 article.

Georgia – Murder rate* – 5.6; Death row population: 87 (1 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Murder with aggravating circumstances; kidnapping with bodily injury or ransom when the victim dies; aircraft hijacking; treason. As of March, 2015, the Georgia Department of Corrections announced a moratorium on executions due to the difficulty in acquiring lethal injection drugs.

Hawaii – Murder rate* – 1.5; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Idaho – Murder rate* – 1.7; Death row population: 11 (1 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with aggravating factors; first-degree kidnapping; perjury resulting in the execution of an innocent person.

Illinois – Murder rate* – 5.5; [Abolished the death penalty in 2011]

Iowa – Murder rate* – 1.4; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Indiana – Murder rate* – 5.4; Death row population: 14 (1 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Murder with 16 aggravating circumstances (IC 35-50-2-9).

Kansas – Murder rate* – 3.9; Death row population: 10 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Capital murder with 8 aggravating circumstances (KSA 21-3439, KSA 21-4625, KSA 21-4636). Trending: According to ScotUS, a stay of current executions in Kansas due to the Monday, March 30, 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision to grant review of three Kansas death penalty cases based on the constitutionality of the death penalty imposed for the mentally disabled.

Kentucky – Murder rate* – 3.8; Death row population: 35 (1 are women); Method: Injection for those sentenced on or after 3/31/98, Injection or Electrocution for those sentenced prior; Death Penalty Crimes: Capital murder with the presence of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance; capital kidnapping (KRS 532.025).

Louisiana – Murder rate* – 10.8; Death row population: 85 (2 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder; treason (La. R.S. 14:30 and 14:113). Trending: March 30, 2015 NYT article reported, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in a Louisiana case that presented questions on the role of the federal courts in determining whether a state prisoner who faces the death penalty has intellectual disability. In March, 2015, three Prosecutors in Louisiana, responsible for 75% of Louisiana’s death sentences, facing prosecutorial misconduct charges, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

Maryland – Murder rate* – 6.4; [Abolished the death penalty in 2013]

Massachusetts – Murder rate* – 2; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Maine – Murder rate – 1.8*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Michigan – Murder rate – 6.4*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Minnesota – Murder rate – 2.1*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Mississippi – Murder rate – 6.5*; Death row population: 48 (2 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Capital murder (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(2)); aircraft piracy (Miss. Code Ann. § 97-25-55(1)).

Missouri – Murder rate – 6.1*; Death row population: 35 (0 are women); Method: Choice of Injection or Gas; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder (565.020 RSMO 2000).

Montana – Murder rate – 2.2*; Death row population: 2 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes:Capital murder with 1 of 9 aggravating circumstances (Mont. Code Ann. § 46-18-303); aggravated kidnapping; felony murder; aggravated sexual intercourse without consent (Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-503).

Nebraska – Murder rate – 3.1*; Death row population: 11 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with a finding of at least 1 statutorily-defined aggravating circumstance.

Nevada – Murder rate – 5.8*; Death row population: 77 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with at least 1 of 15 aggravating circumstances (NRS 200.030, 200.033, 200.035).

New Hampshire – Murder rate – 1.7*; Death row population: 1 (0 are women); Method: Injection or hanging if injection is not possible; Death Penalty Crimes: Murder committed in the course of rape, kidnapping, drug crimes, or burglary; killing of a police officer, judge or prosecutor; murder for hire; murder by an inmate while serving a sentence of life without parole (RSA 630:1, RSA 630:5).

New Jersey – Murder rate – 4.5*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Nevada – Murder rate – 5.8*; Death row population: 77 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: More research is required.

New Mexico – Murder rate – 6*; [abolished the death penalty in 2009]

New York* – Murder rate – 3.3*; [New York abolished the death penalty in 2007]

North Carolina – Murder rate – 4.8*; Death row population: 158 (4 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder (NCGS §14-17) with the finding of at least 1 of 11 statutory aggravating circumstances (NCGS §15A-2000).

North Dakota – Murder rate – 2.2*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Ohio – Murder rate – 3.9*; Death row population: 145 (1 are women); Method: Injection, 1-drug protocol; Death Penalty Crimes: Aggravated murder with at least 1 of 10 aggravating circumstances (O.R.C. secs. 2903.01, 2929.02, and 2929.04). Trending: April 8, 2015, Cleveland.com mentioned changes to Ohio’s lethal injection protocol are being considered in the wake of the botched execution of Dennis McGuire which resulted in the postponement (stay) of all executions in Ohio until 2016.

Oklahoma – Murder rate – 5.1*; Death row population: 49 (1 are women); Method: Injection or electrocution/firing squad of injection is unconstitutional; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder in conjunction with a finding of at least 1 of 8 statutorily-defined aggravating circumstances.  Trending:  According to a Fredericksburg.com editorial article, As of March, 2015, a moratorium on executions in Oklahoma still exists in wake of the US Supreme Court deliberations on whether or a failed Oklahoma execution was constitutional based on cruel and unusual punishment.

Oregon – Murder rate – 2*; Death row population: 36 (1 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Aggravated murder (ORS 163.095).

Pennsylvania – Murder rate – 4.7*; Death row population: 188 (4 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with 18 aggravating circumstances. Trending: Recent poll by York College of Pennsylvania shows 54% not in favor of death penalty.  Death Penalty Moratorium in place by executive order in February, 2015.

Rhode Island – Murder rate – 2.9*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

South Carolina – Murder rate – 6.2*; Death row population: 45 (0 are women); Method: Choice of injection or electrocution; Death Penalty Crimes: Murder with 1 of 12 aggravating circumstances (§ 16-3-20(C)(a)) Trending:  According to a recent Post and Courier news articleSouth Carolina faces a moratorium on executions due to the difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs.

South Dakota – Murder rate – 2.4*; Death row population: 3 (0 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with 1 of 10 aggravating circumstances. Trending: In a February, 2015 Argus Leader news-article, South Dakota state senator discusses sponsoring a Bill to abolish the death penalty.

Tennessee – Murder rate – 5*; Death row population: 73 (1 are women); Method: Injection for crimes after December 31, 1998, electrocution may be selected for crimes prior; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202) with 1 of 16 aggravating circumstances (Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-204).  Trending: April 10, 2015, the Tennessean reported that the Tennessee Supreme Court stayed all executions to review challenges to the constitutionality of the 1-drug injection protocol.

Texas – Murder rate – 4.3*; Death row population: 276 (10 are women); Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Criminal homicide with 1 of 9 aggravating circumstances (Tex. Penal Code § 19.03). Trending: According to the Texas TribuneExecutions in Texas jeopardized if disclosure of lethal injection drug suppliers is to be required, according to the Texas Tribune, April 15, 2015. Also, according to an April 2015 USA Today article a Texas lawyer, Maurie Levin, states  “Even though Texas has managed to continue to carry out executions, it’s a mistake to think it’s business as usual.”

Utah – Murder rate – 1.7*; Death row population: 9 (0 are women); Method: Injection or firing squad if injection is unconstitutional and for inmates who chose firing squad prior to 5/3/2004; Death Penalty Crimes: Aggravated murder (76-5-202, Utah Code Annotated).

Vermont – Murder rate – 1.6*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Virginia – Murder rate – 3.8*; Death row population: 8 (0 are women); Method: Choice of injection or electrocution; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder with 1 of 15 aggravating circumstances (VA Code § 18.2-31). Trending: April 8, 2015, in a Roanoke News article, after the exoneration of Earl Washington, Mark Early, former Virginia attorney general stated, “I no longer have such faith in the government and, therefore, cannot and do not support the death penalty.” No executions are currently scheduled in Virginia as of March, 2015. according to Fredericksburg.com OpEd.

Washington – Murder rate – 2.3*; Death row population: 9 (0 are women); Method: Choice of injection or hanging; Death Penalty Crimes: Aggravated first-degree murder.

Wisconsin – Murder rate – 2.8*; [Number of Executions Since 1976 – 0]

Wyoming – Murder rate – 2.9*; Death row population: 1 (0 are women); Method: Injection  or gas if injection is found unconstitutional; Death Penalty Crimes: First-degree murder; murder during the commission of sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor, arson, robbery, burglary, escape, resisting arrest, kidnapping, or abuse of a minor under 16. (W.S.A. § 6-2-101(a))

US Military – Murder rate – 4.4*; Death row population: 62 (2 are women); Method: method of state where sentence imposed; Death Penalty Crimes: The U.S. military has its own laws and court system separate from those of the states and the federal government. Trending: According to a June 18, 2012 New Tribune news article, Capital punishment for military crimes is rare, the last military execution took place in 1961 (which gives rise to the question as to the legality and logic of retaining 62 prisoners on death row if there have been no executions in over 50 years).

US Federal Govt. – Murder rate – 0*; Death row population: 6 (0 are women) [Update: As of May 15, 2015, due to the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sentencing determination, the death row population is now 7] ; Method: Injection; Death Penalty Crimes: Further research required. Trending: Attorney General Eric Holder is seeking the death penalty in the matter of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,  “Boston Marathon bomber” which may be applied to 17 of 30 counts with which Tsarnaev was found guilty on April 8, 2015, according to a recent Time article published April 25, 2015 and Issues have been raised as to the effect of jury decision and impartiality in the Tsarnaev trial, according a recent New Yorker article.

Below, are a few more interesting articles regarding the death penalty and the Tsarnaev trial…

See, Vanity Fair March 2015 news article discussion regarding the lawyer defending Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Judy Clarke, cruel and unusual punishment and the death penalty in this Federal trial.

See, January 7, 2014 Boston Bar Biz News article regarding the Boston Bar Association’s stand against the death penalty.

See, The Pew Research Center, regarding a wealth of valuable information regarding the death penalty.

**Important Update:  May 15, 2015, as reported in the New York Times, Dzhokar Tsarnaev was given the Death Penalty sentence in the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial.

Enjoy!

ABOUT ME:  Attorney Kelly is an attorney in good standing, licensed to practice in both the Federal District and State Courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Her law practice is focused on consumer finance and bankruptcy.  However, Attorney Kelly is experienced in both criminal and civil trial work.  On a personal note, Attorney Kelly enjoys writing and other things, like conservation and agriculture.  To find out more visit,www.attorneykelly.squarespace.comhttp://www.attorneykelly.wordpress.com, or call us at (508) 784-1444.

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NOTICE:  Attorney Kelly does NOT provide legal advice to anyone via social media or anywhere over the Internet.  Any and all electronic posts and writings, by Attorney Kelly, does NOT establish any type of attorney-client relationship, whatsoever, neither perceived, actual, material, implied or other.  We can not stress enough, if you need personal legal advice, always see your attorney.  Do not rely upon Attorney Kelly’s posts, writings or any Internet information on websites or social media for your own personal legal advice.  Seek legal advice and representation from your own personal attorney.

Copyright © 2015 by Ginger B. Kelly, Esq., all rights reserved.

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