June 15, 2019

Constitutional Origins of the Federal Judiciary: Talking Points

1. Establishing an Independent Judiciary for the New Nation

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the delegates shared a commitment to an independent judiciary. They agreed that an indispensable part of any well-organized republican government was a separate and co-equal judicial branch that would serve alongside the executive and legislative branches. But the delegates did not arrive in Philadelphia with a fully developed plan for the federal judiciary. Most were more concerned with the provisions for a national legislature and the executive or with the balance of federal and state authority. The constitutional outline of the nation’s court system emerged over the summer, often in response to decisions the delegates made about the structure of the executive and legislative branches. As the Convention delegates proceeded with their work, the importance of the federal judiciary became more and more evident, although much of the institutional organization we think of as central to the federal court system was not defined until the First Congress convened in 1789.

2. Models for the Federal Judiciary

The delegates to the Federal Convention, like many Americans, accepted certain values associated with the British judicial system. Since the late-seventeenth century, independence of judges in Great Britain had been secured through provisions for service “during good behavior,” which generally meant lifetime tenure.

Beginning in 1776, the newly independent states dismantled the colonial court systems that were generally under the control of royal governors and established in their place judiciaries that would be important models for the Federal Convention. Virginia’s constitution was the first to establish the judiciary as one of three independent branches of government. Some states provided for judges to serve during good behavior and some mandated a fixed salary for judges. In the 1780s, several state courts asserted the authority to judge state laws in violation of the state constitution, and legal writers proposed ways to make the judiciaries more independent of the legislature as well as the executive. The framers would look to the experience of the state courts for lessons about the best ways to make a judiciary independent and to ensure a proper separation of powers.

The framers of the Constitution had no practical model of a court to serve the whole nation. The only court established under the Articles of Confederation, which served as the first national government, was the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture. This body had very limited jurisdiction; it dealt only with the capture of enemy ships and had no enforcement powers. The proper role of an independent, national judiciary was a largely unexplored topic when the Federal Convention convened.

3. Proposals at the Federal Convention

The Federal Convention began its discussion of a new constitution with consideration of the so-called Virginia Plan submitted by Edmund Randolph and drafted by James Madison. Madison proposed that the legislature be authorized to establish one or more supreme courts (perhaps with different jurisdiction) that would hear appeals of cases of national interest, and inferior courts that would serve as trial courts for national issues. Judges of these courts would hold office during good behavior, be appointed by the Congress, and receive a fixed salary that could not be increased or decreased during their service. A council of revision, made up of the executive and some federal judges, would review state and federal laws and veto those they believed violated the Constitution or even those they considered harmful.

4. Defining the Judiciary

Early in the Convention, delegates agreed that there would be a single supreme court and one or more inferior courts, but that decision about inferior courts was soon reversed. During the remaining three months of the Convention, the delegates engaged in recurring debates on questions related to the federal judiciary: who would appoint judges? what would be the term of office for judges? what provisions would be made for judges’ salaries? who would exercise judicial review of state and federal laws? and what would be the relationship between federal and state courts?

Appointment-Some delegates, like James Wilson of Pennsylvania, recommended appointment by the executive as a protection against the intrigues associated with a large legislature. Many more supported appointment by the legislature or by the Senate alone. John Rutledge of South Carolina, who later served as a Supreme Court justice, feared that concentrating the appointment power in the hands of a single executive would lead to monarchy. Roger Sherman of Connecticut thought appointment by the Senate would ensure that judges were drawn from every part of the country. Madison feared that many members of the full Congress would not have the experience to assess the qualifications for a judge, and he initially preferred appointment by the more exclusive membership of the Senate.

Nathaniel Gorham, a delegate from Massachusetts, suggested the mode of judicial appointment that his state had used since the colonial period: nomination by the executive and approval by the smaller branch of the legislature. Once the convention decided that the Senate would represent states equally, Madison suggested that the President be authorized to appoint judges but that the Senate be given the right to veto the appointment by a vote of two-thirds of the members. Only in the final two weeks of the convention did the delegates agree that federal judges, like ambassadors and other appointed officers, would be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Tenure and removal-The delegates generally agreed that judges should have tenure with good behavior, but it was more difficult to decide what was the proper standard of good behavior and who would determine when judges did not meet that standard. Many of the early state constitutions followed the British model and provided for the removal of judges by the executive branch upon recommendation of the legislature. When John Dickinson of Delaware proposed a similar removal process for federal judges, several delegates worried that the judges would then be vulnerable to political pressures. Gouvernor Morris of New York thought removal of judges for violation of a standard of good behavior required some form of trial. With no further debate in the full convention, the authors of the final draft of the Constitution inserted a provision for removal of judges only through impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction of “high crimes and misdemeanors” in a trial conducted by the Senate.

Salary-The delegates understood that the salary provisions for judges would be a key to protecting judicial independence, and the Virginia Plan proposed that judges would receive a fixed, regular salary that could not be increased or reduced. No one challenged the provision to protect judges from any reduction in salary, which was seen as an essential protection against political pressure from the legislature. But the absence of pay increases also could make the judges dependent, warned Gouvernor Morris, who believed that judicial salaries must be regulated by the costs of living, or, as he put it, “the manners & the style of the living in a Country.” Benjamin Franklin wanted the option of increasing judges’ salaries if the business of the courts increased. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina argued that large salaries would be necessary to attract “men of the first talents.” Madison feared that if a pay raise for judges were pending before the Congress, judges might be reluctant to rule against the government or the interests of individual members of Congress. Madison suggested judicial pay might be pegged to the price of a familiar commodity like wheat, but a large majority of state delegations insisted on leaving open an option for judicial pay raises.

Judicial Review-The Convention’s longest debate involving the judiciary focused on Madison’s proposal for a council of revision. Following the model of the New York state constitution, Madison envisioned a council made up of the President and a group of judges who would review all legislation and have the authority to suggest revisions or to veto an act. The council would also have had authority to review Congress’s recommendation for the disallowance of state legislation. Madison, who believed that the natural tendency of a republican legislature was “to absorb all power into its vortex,” thought it was essential to bring the executive and judicial branches together as a check on improper or unjust legislation. He so strongly advocated this role of the judiciary that he brought the motion up twice after the Convention had rejected it.

Many delegates thought it would violate the separation of powers to join the executive and the judicial in this way. Judges should not have a role in the formation of policy, said Nathaniel Gorham. Caleb Strong of Massachusetts feared that the judges’ role on a council of revision would undermine their credibility when they reviewed laws that were challenged in court. John Rutledge thought judges should never give an opinion on legislation until it was law. The Convention repeatedly rejected Madison’s proposal and left the President with the sole authority to veto legislation. Although the Constitution made no reference to judicial review, the debate on the council of revision made clear that many delegates believed the council was unnecessary because they expected the federal judiciary to exercise the power of judicial review to declare laws invalid.

Organization and Jurisdiction-The proposed Constitution defined the potential jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary, but left unanswered many of the questions that had divided the delegates. Madison’s original plan proposed a series of inferior federal courts to serve as trial courts, but many delegates, like William Paterson, proposed that the state courts serve as the courts of first instance, or trial courts, in cases raising federal issues. After the delegates rejected a proposal to establish inferior federal courts, they accepted the proposal of Madison and James Wilson to give the Congress authority to establish inferior courts, thus leaving open the option that state courts might serve as trial courts for many questions arising under federal laws or the Constitution. It would be up to the new Congress to organize the court system.

The Constitution’s grant of jurisdiction to federal courts extended to all cases “in law and equity” arising under the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties. Federal jurisdiction also included cases related to foreign diplomats, admiralty and maritime issues, disputes between states, and disputes between citizens of different states. With little recorded debate, the delegates in the closing days of the Convention accepted language that guaranteed a trial by jury in criminal trials, but the delegates rejected pleas to extend the guarantee of jury trials to civil cases. Also with little debate, the delegates accepted a provision for appeals to the Supreme Court “both as to Law and Fact.” By defining the range of federal jurisdiction, the Convention implicitly recognized that state courts would retain full jurisdiction over many legal questions.

5. Public Debates on the Proposed Constitution

Once the proposed Constitution was presented to the states for ratification, critics of the charter, known as the Anti-Federalists, offered the public a critique of the proposed judiciary, which they feared would weaken the authority of states and undermine legal rights secured by the establishment of independent state governments. The supporters of the Constitution, known as Federalists, responded with explanations of how important an independent judiciary would be for the success of a national government.

For opponents of the Constitution, the judiciary symbolized the expansive power of a national government that they feared would soon overwhelm the states. Anti-Federalists frequently warned that the federal judiciary would “absorb” or “swallow” the state courts, even the states themselves. The Constitution’s broad definition of federal jurisdiction would allow judges and lawyers to expand the reach of the courts as far as they wished. Federal jurisdiction over suits between citizens of different states was seen as particularly threatening to state courts. The power and independence of the judges, who could not be removed for errors of decision or judgment, was, in the words of a leading Anti-Federalist writer, “unprecedented in a free country.”

The outline of the federal judiciary seemed to remove the courts from the local connections that many Americans believed were essential to the preservation of civil liberties. Even if a federal trial court were established in each state and the Supreme Court met in various locations, according to Anti-Federalists, the remoteness of federal courts would deprive most citizens of justice. The distance to a federal court would make legal proceedings too expensive and render justice “unattainable by a great part of the community,” according to George Mason. Jury trials protected the rights of defendants only if the jury were drawn from the local community, and this would be impractical in a federal court.

Anti-Federalists saw in the proposed Constitution two grave threats to the right to a trial by jury, which they saw as the most important means of insuring popular participation in the judicial process and protecting individual liberties. Despite the guarantee of a jury trial in criminal cases, the absence of any reference to jury trials in civil cases raised the specter of a civil law system in which “a few judges . . . possess all the power in the judiciary.” The provision for appeals to the Supreme Court on the basis of challenges to the facts as well as the law raised additional fears of the possible retrial of criminal cases without a jury. The Constitution’s failure to explicitly protect traditional rights to a jury trial became one of the most compelling criticisms raised by the Anti-Federalists.

The Federalist essays of Alexander Hamilton offered the most notable defense of an independent judiciary and a persuasive answer to many of the Anti-Federalist criticisms of the proposed court system. In his famous phrase, the judiciary would be the branch of government “least dangerous to the political rights of the constitution.” The judges had no means of coercion, like the executive control of the military or the Congress’s power over spending, and the judiciary would in practice be dependent on the executive for the enforcement of its decisions. What appeared to the Anti-Federalists as a virtually unchecked judicial authority was, Hamilton argued, absolutely essential to protect the liberties of the people under a government with constitutionally limited powers. The Constitution, once ratified by the states, would be the ultimate expression of the popular will, and it was the judiciary’s responsibility to enforce that popular will when it was violated by legislation that was contrary to the Constitution. Only with the twin protections of tenure during good behavior and salaries that could not be reduced would judges be able to enforce the Constitution free of pressure from the other branches of government or temporary popular majorities.

Hamilton addressed specific Anti-Federalist criticisms about federal jurisdiction over suits between citizens of different states and over equity cases, in which judges based their decisions not on a body of law but on broad principles of fairness. The range of the jurisdiction granted to the federal courts, Hamilton argued, was required to ensure the supremacy of federal law, the protection of equal rights for citizens in each state, and the government’s ability to deal with foreign nations.

Hamilton and other Federalists assured skeptical critics that the most highly qualified individuals would serve as federal judges and that the new Congress would organize the nation’s court system in ways that protected traditional liberties, such as the trial by jury. Yet even many who supported ratification of the Constitution remained concerned that the provisions for the judiciary failed to provide institutional protections of established legal rights and procedures.

6. Ratification

In several states, the conventions voting to ratify the Constitution passed resolutions suggesting amendments that should be added to the Constitution. Those related to the judiciary aimed to protect the right to a jury trial, to forbid appeals to the Supreme Court based on the facts rather than the law in a case, and to restrict the jurisdiction of the federal courts so as to protect citizens from distant court appearances in suits regarding small amounts of money. Virginia’s convention wanted an amendment that limited the jurisdiction of any lower federal courts to admiralty matters and left for the state courts most federal questions. Several of the conventions incorporated their proposed amendments in a bill of rights that they wanted to attach to the Constitution.

7. Judiciary Act of 1789

When Congress turned early in its first session to the organization of the federal courts, the ratification debates had a significant impact on the proposals for the federal judicial system. The Judiciary Act of September 1789 represented a compromise that established a three-part system of federal courts with broad jurisdiction that at the same time allowed the state courts to share jurisdiction over many matters arising under federal law and the Constitution. In addition to a Supreme Court, the federal judiciary included district courts that exercised jurisdiction over admiralty cases and minor criminal cases and civil suits, and circuit courts that served as the principal trial courts with jurisdiction over most federal crimes, disputes between citizens of different states, suits involving the government, and some appeals from the district courts. The procedures to be used in the federal courts, including rules for jury selection, would generally follow the practices of the state in which the federal court met. The provisions for the federal circuit courts, with the often-burdensome requirement that Supreme Court justices regularly preside in these regional courts, were a response to the pervasive fears that a federal judiciary would be too remote from most citizens and would eradicate regional legal customs.

8. The Bill of Rights

The defined structure of the federal judiciary was not enough to eliminate the doubts raised by the Anti-Federalists and shared by many other Americans. As the Senate considered the proposed judiciary bill, James Madison in the House of Representatives presented a draft of a bill of rights that would guarantee many of the legal protections demanded by critics of the Constitution. Madison’s proposed amendments emphasized civil liberties and the rights of criminal defendants rather than the restructuring of the judiciary that had been advocated by some of the draft bills of rights. The amendments, ten of which were ratified in 1791, directly responded to debates on the proposed judiciary by affirming through the Sixth and Seventh Amendments the right to criminal and civil jury trials, with provision for criminal juries to be drawn from the district in which the crime was committed, and by prohibiting reexamination of facts determined by a jury. Debates would continue, and go on even today, about the proper organization of the federal courts and the reach of federal jurisdiction, but the Judiciary Act of 1789 and the Bill of Rights combined to secure a measure of public confidence in the new Constitution and the unprecedented system of federal courts.

SOURCE: https://www.fjc.gov/history/talking/teaching-and-civic-outreach-resources-constitutional-origins-federal-judiciary-3

Ten Years Ago Today, I Filed Bankruptcy (A Personal Update from Attorney DeGray)

“Erase everything from the past that does not serve you, and be grateful it brought you to this place now, and to a new beginning.”

– Rhonda Byrne

May 28, 2009 was literally (and not figuratively) the first day of the rest of my life. It was a second chance in the truest sense and something I will never regret doing. In fact, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Not only was it an opportunity to start my life over again, but it was the single most important part of building my law practice.

Click here to listen to the story of my journey to Bankruptcy.

In the years that followed, I used my story to help hundreds of other people understand the positive side of Bankruptcy and to get their second chance as well.

Since I filed, I got married, opened my own firm, bought a house with my husband, paid off one auto loan, leased another vehicle, paid down my student loans, incurred healthy debt, had a baby and wrote a book.

I do not tell you these things to brag, but rather to illustrate the point that none of these things would have been remotely possible if I didn’t file Bankruptcy.

If you would like to learn about how it can change your life too, please contact me to schedule a free consultation.

Five Essential Elements to Feeling Better, Single, Apart or Together!

When life throws a curveball, you may be overcome with feelings of sadness, confusion, pain or despair.   You may want your ex to change, your finances to be different, the betrayal to be undone, the law to be different. While venting and complaining may have emotionally protective value, ultimately they’re not  going to make you feel better.  And, focusing on the negative is not going to change the fundamental facts of your life.  However, there are simple perspective shifts that can help you navigate any adversity  and make all the difference in how you feel, how relate to yourself, with your family and in the world around you.

So, how can you start to feel better when everything involving your life seems to be falling apart? By exercising your own agency and starting to take ownership of your power to alter your thinking. The most powerful, and compelling part of each of our reality is informed by the stories in our minds.  That inner narrative informs all that you see, do and feel.  And, while it’s powerful, with some small shifts in perspective and tweaks to our inner narrative you can shift it slowly, and begin to feel better.  Your present circumstances do not define you.  Each moment is an opportunity to press re-set and begin to cultivate a new reality. Positive reframing the facts of your life will activate your ability to heal.

If you take a look at what I call the Five Essential Elements, you can begin to shift your internal narrative in a positive way.  Those five elements are: patience, respect, clarity, peace and forgiveness.  By focusing on just one of these five elements each and every day, you will become better equipped to move forward in a healthy way.

The Five Essential Elements allow you to press re-start from wherever you are so that your life can truly become better.

1) Patience

Patience through and beyond your difficult process is the key to your future. It opens the path to true feeling calm, and it gives you the strength to live in the present moment with mindful awareness. When you practice patience, you’re training your mind to transform what could be a catastrophe into an intentional and constructive future for your family and for you.

2) Respect

Self respect can be elusive and the most important to hold onto when you are going through shame inducing experience. Respect for yourself, your humanity, your pain, is important so that you can process and move through it.  When you notice you are feeling bad about yourself or your situation, consider whether you are exposing yourself  to people or circumstances that are feeding the negative loop.  For the moment, shelve the relationships that are not serving you.  Write yourself a letter naming all the people and experiences that lift you up.  Commit to spending more energy engaging in what allows you to best accentuate the positive.

3) Clarity

Clarity is your capacity to receive and respond with lucidity, taking nothing personally.    Getting clear on priorities is vital in order to negotiate best outcomes for your personal needs. Clarity activates your ability to make smooth, easy decisions. Part of being clear in your decisions depends on how much you can let go of blame and allow yourself to make, acceptance and compassion more accessible. Visualize and internalize specific goals. Keep your focus on positive, forward movement and interactions in order to dispel negativity and keep it out of your orbit.

4) Peace

Of course we all want inner peace.  One way to move toward practicing peace is to strive for neutrality, which keeps you free of tension in your mind, heart and body.   This freedom allows you to sustain your resources and keep yourself feeling nourished by your own attitudes and choices. Practicing peace helps you reconstruct your divorce or separation as a sanctuary of new possibilities.   Recognize that peace is a choice and takes effort.  Consciously remove yourself from a pointless argument cycle as you begin to welcome a pathway to peace.

5) Forgiveness  

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It’s a moment of letting go of what might have been and realizing that everything is just as it must be. Forgiveness allows us to release grudges and to feel truly free from the inside out. Remember, holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Recognize that your present circumstances are not an indication of your future. Whether you feel wronged or have wronged another, forgiveness begins when you have compassion for yourself.

If you engage in the daily practice of focusing on one of each of these five essential elements, over time you can truly press re-set. This habitual mindfulness of your circumstance and relationship through the lens of patience, respect, clarity, peace and forgiveness will no doubt make your road forward smooth.  As the negative loop dissipates, you will begin to clear the path for possibility.  You have the POWER RIGHT NOW  to design your own elegant, satisfying story moving forward.  One re-framed story at time.

Gabrielle Hartley is an attorney, coach, mediator, consultant, speaker and author. She is known for a unique, non-toxic approach to divorce that she developed over two decades in practice. Gabrielle keeps 99% of her cases out of the courtroom and at the negotiating table as she effectively supports her clients to create a healthy, uplifted post-divorce life for them. Gabrielle served as court attorney for Judge Jeffrey Sunshine in NYC matrimonial court and is a member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation.  She currently resides in Northampton, MA with her husband and three sons. Visit Gabrielle at gabriellehartley.com to learn more about hiring Gabrielle for speaking at events, divorce coaching or mediation services.

Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate (HarperWave), by Gabrielle Hartley, with Elena Brower, is the first book to apply the life changing healing wisdom of meditation and yoga, combined with practical advice to help anyone going through the painful and seemingly intractable realities of divorce.  Using powerful, mind-body exercises and legal insight Better Apart shows you how to meaningfully shift your mindset and move forward through any-or all parts of this emotionally fraught process.

See What You Can Do Online During National Social Security Month

In April, we celebrate National Social Security Month by letting you know what you can do online with a my Social Security account. Last month we featured how you can replace a lost or stolen Social Security card, get a copy of your 1099 (SSA-1099), and check the status of your Social Security benefit application or claim. This month we share three more advantages.

If you already receive Social Security benefits, you can set up or change direct deposit information online with a my Social Security account. In most cases, you are required to receive federal benefits electronically, so when you choose direct deposit, we will electronically deposit your funds directly into a bank account. If you do not have a bank account, you can choose Direct Express® and your funds will be electronically deposited into a prepaid debit card account. Direct Express® has no enrollment fee or minimum balance requirement to open or use the account. We strive to provide online services that best suit when, where, and how you do business with us. You can set up direct deposit, or you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Visit our website to learn more about all of our online services.

Do you receive Social Security benefits (retirement, survivors, or disability) or are you enrolled in Medicare and getting ready to move?  You can change your address information online when you create a my Social Security account.

If you already receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you can create a  my Social Security  account and have instant access to your award letter or, as we call it, benefit verification letter.

Please know that securing your identity and personal information is important to us. We protect your information by using strict identity verification and security features. The application process has built-in features to detect fraud and confirm your identity.

Share with friends and family what you can do online with a my Social Security account.

Originally posted on by .

Re-posted by Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray of Consumer Legal Services, LLC.

This is no April Fools’ Joke: Means Test Numbers are Going Up as of April 1, 2019!

After your initial consultation, I will analyze your financial circumstances and perform your Means Test. A Means Test is an assessment used to determine if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Before 2005 it was easy to file for bankruptcy; virtually anyone could do so. In 2005 Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA)1 and added the Means Test requirement to prevent abuse of the Bankruptcy process. Simply put if you “pass” the means test, you are a qualified candidate and can file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. If you “fail” the means Test, you may not file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy but you may enjoy other alternatives such as a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The Means Test primarily encompasses a two-step analysis:

STEP ONE: Your (the “debtor’s”) gross income is calculated on an average over a six month period prior to filing for Bankruptcy. Gross income for means testing purposes includes wages, salary, tips, bonuses, overtime and commissions. It does not include social security benefits. The figure derived from taking the average is than considered the Debtor’s Current Monthly Income which is then compared to the median income for your state and household size. If your current monthly income is less than the median income for your state and household size, than you “pass” the means test and are allowed to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. If, however, your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, you may proceed to Step Two.

STEP TWO: If your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, there is, in technical terms, a “presumption of abuse.”2 In order to rebut the presumption, or in other terms, to pass the means test by using the second step, the means test’s second section allows you to subtract from your current monthly income certain allowable and deductible expenses.3 These allowed deductions include, but are not limited to, expenses for living (mortgages and property taxes), transportation (car loans and car taxes), health insurance and charitable donations. After the calculations are performed, and the allowable deductions are taken, and if you then have no disposable monthly income available, you will then have passed the Means Test and may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. If, on the other hand, you do have remaining disposable income, you may consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The discussion above is an overview of the Means Test in basic terms and is in no way intended as a specific analysis of your personal financial circumstances.

For an analysis of your own financial circumstances, please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray, to schedule your free consultation today!


1See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)

2See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2) and 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(3)

3See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2)(A)

Wife, Mother, Attorney and…now, Author!

About a year ago, over the course of many months, in between taking care of my son and clients, I co-authored a book called “Tiger Tactics: Powerful Strategies for Winning Law Firms.”  Below is a sample.  Copies can be ordered on TigerTacticsBook.com.


They say when you have a baby, you should sleep when the baby sleeps. I say work when the baby sleeps.

Thirteen months ago I had a baby. I did not have a maternity leave. I emailed clients within one hour of having a C-section. When you are a solo, there is no other choice.

My son’s name is Chase. I now think of my life in two parts: (1) Before Chase (aka BC) and (2) After Chase (aka AC). Before he was born, I worked all the time. And I mean All. The. Time. I loved it. I know, I am weird. But I wanted to be a lawyer all my life and I love what I do……all aspects of it, working in the business as well as working on the business. My husband didn’t love it. But he adjusted BC and understood why I didn’t have many friends or hobbies, because I was always working and that was my passion.

After Chase, things were immediately different. I now have this little human that depends on me 24/7 and is the cutest, most fun little guy in the world, so of course, spending time with him has become my first priority, and my work has naturally taken a close second place.

My number-one piece of advice to any lawyer who has children or wants to balance their work and life, even if they don’t have kids, is this: Make a schedule and stick to it.

Easy to say and hard to do, I know. It’s the nature of our profession and one of the top reasons why I love it. No day is the same. Mondays I might spend all morning in court and all afternoon in client meetings, and on Thursdays I might spend all day doing networking, going to Rotary meetings, and meeting new referral sources. But the longer you practice, the more you will notice a rhythm to your practice and your schedule, so you can make a rough schedule and try to stick to it. That goes for home too.

When you have small children, they rule your schedule, and you have to adapt to them. That’s where the rule “work when the baby sleeps” comes in. But as they grow and organically create their own routine, you can work your business and personal responsibilities, tasks, and events into and around their routine…

To continue reading, head over to www.TigerTacticsBook.com.

MEANS TESTING: Census Bureau, IRS Data and Administrative Expenses Multipliers

“Most individual debtors filing for bankruptcy relief are required to complete a version of Bankruptcy Form 122. Official Form 122A-1 (Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income), Official Form 122A-1Supp (Statement of Exemption from Presumption of Abuse Under § 707(b)(2)), and Official Form 122A-2 (Chapter 7 Means Test Calculation) (collectively the “122A Forms”) are designed for use in chapter 7 cases. Official Form 122C-1 (Statement of Your Current Monthly Income and Calculation of Commitment Period) and Official Form 122C-2 (Chapter 13 Calculation of Your Disposable Income) (collectively the “122C Forms”) are designed for use in chapter 13 cases. [The Official Bankruptcy Forms can be found on the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts Web site.]

A debtor must enter income and expense information onto the appropriate form (i.e., the 122A Forms or the 122C Forms) and then make calculations using the information entered. Some of the information needed to complete these forms, such as a debtor’s current monthly income, comes from the debtor’s own personal records. However, other information needed to complete the forms comes from the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This Web site reproduces the Census Bureau and IRS Data necessary to complete the 122A Forms and the 122C Forms. The source data reproduced here is also available directly from the IRS and Census Bureau…”

SOURCE: https://www.justice.gov/ust/means-testing

For more information and a FREE  Means Test Analysis, please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray at 203-713-8877 or visit www.ConsumerLegalServicesLLC.com.

What to Expect at an Initial Consultation

THE FIRST STEP on your journey to a fresh start begins with a free and confidential consultation to learn exactly what your options are.  I offer initial consultations at various locations around the state of Connecticut (including Milford, Shelton and Wethersfield) and will strive to find a convenient time and place to meet with you.  I have day, evening and weekend appointments available and will even skype or facetime with you!

An initial consultation with a lawyer is a great opportunity for many reasons.  When you meet with me for the first time you will be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.  I understand the hardship you are facing and will give you my full attention.  The meeting will be an opportunity for you to interview me, just as much as it is an opportunity for me to interview you.  Always remember, when you hire an attorney, they work for you, and you must feel comfortable with them as you will have to trust your attorney to guide you through each and every step of the Bankruptcy process.

During our consultation I will ask pointed questions that are focused on painting a picture of your financial circumstances.  This inquiry will include questions pertaining to your income, assets and debts.  Through your answers I will be able to analyze your financial circumstances and offer you options.

Next I will show you various disclosure statements that I am required to give to you by the United States Bankruptcy Court under the Bankruptcy Code1.  These documents will explain the Bankruptcy process, the difference between the various chapters of Bankruptcy, what a Discharge is and what credit counseling services are, among other important things.  You will be asked to sign these documents, acknowledging that you received them.

Finally, if I determine that you are a likely candidate for Bankruptcy and you are interested in hiring me to file your Bankruptcy Petition, I will conclude my presentation by guiding you through a checklist of documents I will need from you to perform a Means Test.  A Means Test is a formal assessment used to determine if you qualify for Bankruptcy.  Do not be alarmed, it is not a test like the SATs and does not require you to pencil in any bubbles!  On the contrary, you will gather the documents and my staff and I will prepare the test for you as part of our package services.

Throughout the consultation and especially at the end, I will ask you if you have any questions.  I will be happy to answer all of your questions and you should not hesitate to ask any question or ask for clarification if something is unclear.

At the conclusion of the initial consultation I will give you a folder with all of my contact information and copies of all the documents you read and signed during the meeting.  A follow-up appointment will be made with you for either a telephone conference or an in-person meeting to go over any further questions you may have and to help you with the gathering of your documents.

The next part of this series will go into more depth about the specific documents you will gather so that we will be able to analyze your financial circumstances and prepare your Means Test.

To schedule your initial consultation, please call us at 203-713-8877 or visit our website at www.ConsumerLegalServicesLLC.com.
111 U.S.C. §§ 101-1532

GOOD NEWS: Updated Census Bureau Median Family Income Data

March 14, 2019

The Census Bureau’s Median Family Income Data accessible through the “Means Testing Information” page has been updated. The U.S. Trustee Program will apply the updated data to all cases filed on or after April 1, 2019.

SOURCE: https://www.justice.gov/ust

Turn Your Tax Refund Into Debt Relief Today

“Leverage: the use of a small initial investment…to gain a very high return.”

— Dictionary.com

          I have been debating how to talk about this in a delicate manner and I simply could not figure it out. So, I will just come out and say it: People being crushed by debt can leverage their tax refunds to file Bankruptcy and get a Fresh Start. There, I finally said it.

          It may not sound kosher but it is. Instead of using your tax refund to pay off a portion of your debt, or to buy a big screen TV, people can pay for their legal fees to get out of massive amounts of debt if they qualify and it is the right thing for them to do based on their circumstances.

          If you are struggling with debt and want to explore this option, please contact my office and schedule a free and confidential consultation.


This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.