Becoming engaged with civics
Getting anyone excited about civic engagement can be a tall order, and it proves to be even more difficult for children.
The Federal Bar Association (FBA) is looking to change this by introducing the federal court system to the classroom.
The FBA has been working on a civic engagement project that introduces grade school, middle school, and high school students to how the federal court system operates and what it is like to be a federal judge in the United States.
At the head of the initiative sits Judge Michael Newman, a United States magistrate judge in the southern district of Ohio.
Honorable Judge Newman
Judge Newman became president of the Federal Bar in October of last year and has made it his top priority to work with students across the nation to teach them the importance of the court system. Following a conversation with the Director of Administrative Office (AO) of U.S. Courts, Jim Duff, Judge Newman was tasked with assisting the AO with civics efforts to benefit students.
“Knowing I was going to be president of the FBA this year, I took that to heart as the main thrust of my presidency,” said Judge Newman.
“So, we’ve created a program called Civics and Service to Others [and] the focus of it, the civics, is seeing that young people have a better understanding of the federal court system and how courts work.”
Civics and Service to Others
The initiative brings federal judges into schools to teach children about the United States legal system.
In addition, students are invited to visit operating courthouses to take part in mock trials with judges and other students.
With this, they play out sentencing scenarios in which they pretend a high school student has committed a federal crime that they will be sentenced for. The students then argue on both sides, some on behalf of the government and some on behalf of the “criminal.”
All volunteer based
The Federal Bar Association is currently made up of 19-20 thousand members. This civics initiative is done on a volunteer basis and is dependent on how much time a member has available.
Even if a judge only has 15 minutes free, they can still volunteer their time with one of the activities the FBA has to offer.
“People do it because they care for the federal court system, they care about young people, and they care about civics,” said Judge Newman.
Significance of education
One of the biggest pieces of advice Judge Newman offers to the youth of America is to stay in school, regardless of what the end goal is.
He asserts that the best way for one to get where they want to be is to get as much education as they can.
Judge Newman acknowledges that anyone interested in law as a profession should do as much research, and as many externships, as they can to make sure that it is the right path for them.
National Community Outreach Project
In addition to the Civics and Service to Others initiative, the Federal Bar also has a history of working with the homeless as well as assisting veterans with things like creating wills.
Alongside working with students, Judge Newman has implemented a Federal Veterans Court that helps veterans who may need legal assistance for one reason or another.
With these charitable efforts under their belt, the FBA has developed the National Community Outreach Project (NCOP) for the month of April. While their civics work is year round, the NCOP urges FBA chapters around the country to focus on community outreach and encourages members to go into the community to do good for others.
The Federal Bar Association president term lasts for one year, and Judge Newman is making the most of the time that he has. “The thing that I’m proud of [is that] it has affected thousands of kids across the country, literally thousands,” he said.
“And, it’s heartwarming, quite frankly, to see how much [the civics project] is doing in the world.”
FFEE Act wants to save you from having to pay to freeze your credit
(POLITICS NEWS) The FFEE Act wants to help give consumers more rights more control over how credit agencies use their data.
Following the compromise of consumer data from credit reporting bureau Equifax, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) have introduced the Freedom From Equifax Exploitation (FFEE) Act.
This act aims to give consumers more rights more control over how credit agencies use their data.
The bill is available here, but here is a few of the bill’s highlights:
- Create a uniform, federal process for obtaining and lifting a credit freeze.
- Preventing credit reporting agencies from profiting off the use of consumer information for the duration of a credit freeze;
- Strengthening the fraud alert protection from 90 days to a one year, with a year renewable.
- In ID theft cases, a 7 year fraud alert is created.
- Require any credit reporting agency who charged a fee to freeze credit in response to the data breach to refund those fees,
- Allow for an additional free credit report (consumers already get one under the Fair Credit Reporting Act through annualcreditreport.com)
The most important feature here is the removal of any fee to freeze your credit. Currently, agencies like Equifax charge nominal fees to freeze credit (anywhere from 3-10) dollars. If this bill passes – not only will that service be free, but it will restrict the way credit agencies use that information while the freeze is active.
The idea behind making this free also keeps credit companies, whom many believe are responsible for the security of credit information, from profiting off information breaches. Given that many financial advisors have advised those impacted to freeze their credit, this would be a benefit to consumers.
It is important to note here that Equifax has suspended the fees to freeze credit for the next month.
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report. Simply put, it requires the credit agency to contact you first to ensure it was you who applied for credit, thus making it harder for you to apply for credit. You would need to unfreeze your account to apply for new credit. You must also freeze credit with each bureau, which can lead to some expenses as you must pay anytime to lift a freeze.
Remember: a credit freeze doesn’t impact current accounts or your credit score. If you apply for credit often, or open new accounts often, then a credit freeze may not be for you.
Lots of names
The bill has several original co-sponsors, including Senators Sanders, Franken, and Blumenthal. Companies like the National Consumer Law Center, Americans for Financial Reform, CREDO, and the Consumer Federation of America all have also endorsed the bill.
President Trump disbands his business councils with one tweet
(POLITICS) President Trump has disbanded the councils that he previously very adamantly supported, so what happened?
We interrupt this regularly scheduled program
Huge news on the domestic policy front – per a Twitter announcement, President Trump’s two business advisory councils – the Strategic and Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative – have been disbanded.
The sequence of events has been fast and difficult to follow, but here’s how things went down.
See ya later
On Monday, Kenneth C. Frazier, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck, resigned from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative in protest at President Trump’s comments on the recent violence in Charlottesville. By the evening of the same day, Brian Krzanich of Intel and Kevin Planck of Under Armour had done the same. They were quickly followed by Thea Lee and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Scott Paul of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup and Inge Thulin of 3M.
This morning, in response to the sudden exodus, Stephen Schwartzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group and longtime Trump business and political ally, led a conference call of the remaining council members this morning to debate how to proceed.
By the end, all members had resigned.
In short, President Trump is not disbanding his advisory councils in the sense of (no “The Apprentice” jokes, please) firing their members. The members already quit. The President’s Tweet simply announced that had taken place, and that, as it states he “disbanded” the now-vacant groups, there are presumably no plans in the near future to replace them.
This is a surprising move from the President. Historically the role of business advisory councils has been to keep an open communication pipeline between the President and the American business community, something this president has consistently identified as a priority. President Trump has always positioned himself as passionately pro-business, particularly concerned with global competitiveness and the loss of jobs and revenue in American manufacturing.
The Strategic and Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative were founded specifically to address those issues.
The business community in particular had expected the President to draw heavily on their advice.
On the other hand, that advice has repeatedly conflicted with the President’s other policies. Well before Charlottesville, the Strategic and Policy Forum had seen high-profile resignations: Bob Iger of Disney and Elon Musk of Tesla (who served on, and resigned from, both the SPF and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative) resigned over the President’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and ex-CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick departed over restrictions on immigration from the Middle East.
President Trump’s elimination of his business advisory councils clearly indicates a new direction in the relationship between the White House and the American business community.
What that direction will be, and what consequences it will have for the economy, remain to be seen.
The House just voted to take away some important consumer rights
(POLITICS) If adopted by the Senate and the President, our banks, credit card companies, student loan companies, and other financial services will have a hall pass on all sorts of bad behavior.
Same story, different day
Big banks have won again, as they and other financial institutions continue to restrict consumer rights all in the name of “choice.” Well, choice for the companies that is.
The GOP controlled House just voted to introduce a Congressional Review Act Resolution that if passed by the Senate, will make it harder for consumers to have their day in court.
Bump the consumers, right?
The Resolution would overturn rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) aimed at protecting consumer rights and keep financial institutions – like banks, credit card companies, and loan services – in check.
The rules center on the forced arbitration clause that is hidden among many contracts.
This clause allows consumers and companies the chance to settle issues behind closed doors without going through the legal system. That doesn’t sound too harsh at first glance, right? Well, of course there are a few caveats that allow the pendulum to swing in favor of financial companies.
Like the fact that there are no public records of these arbitrations, even if the company was found at fault.
Also, that consumers can choose between arbitration and the court system unless the company wants arbitration, then the choice is gone. Most importantly, forced arbitration severely limits class action lawsuits, which results in a lot less individual suits.
Wall Street wins again
Many bank-backed House representatives argued that class action lawsuits only result in a miniscule payout for consumers.
This may be true, but it is a smaller amount for a lot more people.
This means the company pays a larger amount to more mistreated consumers overall. House Democrats, none of which voted in favor of the Resolution, feel that this is another way for Wall Street to benefit from their ties to lawmakers. Without a chance to go to court, consumers are deprived of their rights simply by signing a contract.
There’s still hope
Consumers still have a chance if the Resolution is rejected by Congress. It will be more of a debate, since it would only take two opposing votes from the GOP side to reject it. Hopefully they will consider who the CFPB rules protect.
No consumers have raised issues to repeal them. It is a wish from the financial companies they have affected, and unfortunately their wish just may come true.
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