Kasen & Kasen extends our condolences to the family of the Honorable Morris Stern, New Jersey Bankruptcy Judge. He will truly be missed.

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As a New Jersey bankruptcy judge, Morris Stern developed a reputation for dispensing justice and comedy in the same breath.

“He had a unique combination of supreme intellect and humor,” said attorney Michael Sirota, who appeared before him multiple times, and chairs the restructuring group at law firm Cole Schotz.

Sirota said Stern would often say, “ ‘Thanks you for your argument, which was very well done,’ and then he would rule against you.”

Stern died Wednesday at his Millburn home after battling cancer. He was 72.

Born in Newark on March 31, 1941, to Regina and Irving Stern, he attended Weequahic High School. In 1962, Stern earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Lafayette College.

In 1965 he graduated with honors from Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, where he was an editor of the Law Review.

After law school Stern clerked for the Hon. Robert Matthew in Superior Court in Hudson County.

For 30 years, Stern was a partner at Stern, Dubrow and Marcus, where he specialized in commercial law. As an adjunct professor at his law school alma mater, Stern taught bankruptcy and commercial law.

“He was funny but as articulate and thorough as you could possibly be,” said Jim Waldron, who was a Stern student in 1988 and is now clerk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey. “He somehow managed to make it understandable.”

In 2001, Stern was appointed by the Third Circuit Judicial Council as a judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey.

On the bench, Stern was known for mastering complex legal issues and delivering thoroughly researched opinions, said Judge Michael Kaplan, one of his colleagues in bankruptcy court.

Once, he wrote an opinion around 70 pages on whether a judge could eliminate surcharges added to traffic tickets when the debtor had filed personal bankruptcy, Kaplan said.

“Seventy pages on anything is a lot to write,” Kaplan said. “You can take a lot of opinions and put them together and they won’t be 70 pages.”

Stern also presided over a number of high-profile cases.

Most notably, he tackled a Bayonne Medical Center bankruptcy case in 2007, and St. Mary’s Hospital’s bankruptcy in 2009. In both cases he had to see the medical facilities through bankruptcy and approve new owners that would satisfy debtors, state regulators and the communities.

“These cases are very difficult,” Kaplan said. “They are much different than a retail chapter 11.”

Those who keep up with celebrity news more than developments in the legal world might know Stern better as the judge who presided over Real Housewives of New Jersey reality star Teresa Giudice’s bankruptcy.

“I’m sure they got a fair shake but that’s not a good indication of his work,” Sirota said. “He’s a brilliant man.”

By Naomi Nix

http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2014/02/judge_morris_stern_dies_at_the_age_of_72.html

Same-sex Spouses Are Now Eligible to File for Bankruptcy Jointly

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Following the landmark Supreme Court Decision last June that struck down a provision in the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the Justice Department has been adjusting federal policies, practices and programs to bring significant advances for gay couples in America.

On Saturday, January 8, 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. announced that the Justice Department would be making bold moves to eliminate discrimination between same-sex and opposite-sex married couples in the federal justice system. Holder was quoted at the Human Rights Campaign’s Greater New York Gala stating that “[t]his means that, in every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States — they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law.”

Holder followed up this announcement with a formal policy memo released on Monday, January 10, 2014. In this memo he instructed employees that it is the Justice Department’s policy “to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible” and “treat all individuals equally regardless of sexual orientation.”

This memo sets out four major areas that will be affected by this change of policy. One is that the Justice Department will recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate their spouse. Another is that the U.S. Trustee Program will take the position that same-sex married couples should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and that domestic support obligations should include debts such as alimony owed to a former same-sex spouse. In addition to this, federal prisoners in same-sex marriages will be entitled to visitation by a spouse, inmate furloughs during a crisis involving a spouse, escorted trips to attend a spouse’s funeral, correspondence with a spouse and compassionate release or reduction in sentence based on an inmate’s spouse being incapacitated. Lastly, programs for survivors of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty will now be extended to same-sex spouses, which include death and educational benefits the government provides.

For bankruptcy information call Kasen & Kasen to schedule a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION (856) 424-4144.  The attorneys at Kasen & Kasen have over 40 years experience representing consumer and business debtors in bankruptcy.  David Kasen is board certified as a specialist in BOTH consumer AND business bankruptcy law.  Find out more about our firm by visiting www.kasenlaw.com.

10 Characteristics of Debt-free People

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Whether you’ve resolved to get debt-free in 2014 or you have a long way to go, it’s good to be inspired. Look at people you know who are already living debt-free lives. Whether it’s a friend, family member or co-worker, the person you are thinking of probably shares similar qualities with other debt-free people. Here are 10 common characteristics you can copy to live within your means.

1. They Pay Attention to Details

You won’t notice that recurring fee on your credit card for the gym you’ve stopped using if you’re not checking your statement regularly. People without debt monitor their personal finances closely. They are less likely to waste money by forgetting about payment due dates or overdraft fees.

You can start paying more attention also. The key is just to start. Try looking at your credit card statements every month. Next monitor all of your spending. Now add up your income. Compare the two and see where you could cut back. Re-visit this budget a few times a year to stay on track.

2. They Know Their Stuff

Debt-free people do their own research. They might have an accountant, but they don’t send over paperwork or sign their taxes without looking them over. If you want control over your finances, you need to learn about them. It may feel overwhelming but the sense of security you will feel in understanding what’s happening with your money will outweigh the discomfort.

3. They Pretend They Make Less

Even if you are already deep in debt, you can start to improve your situation by immediately changing the way you look at your money. Imagine you make 10%, 25% or even 50% less than you do. Make a budget using that math. It may be impossible at first, but start making cuts to your spending.

Debt-free people live on less than they make. This allows them to put money aside for buying a house, retirement and an emergency fund. This provides a financial independence that allows you more options in the future.

4. They Think Long Term

When the focus isn’t on immediate gratification, you can make smarter decisions. Sure, it would be nice to have this season’s hottest shoes, but how will they help your long-term financial goals? This doesn’t mean you can’t ever buy shoes! It just means you have to save up before you buy them. This also gives you the time to consider if you really even like the shoes and avoid impulse purchases.

5. They Aren’t Afraid to Ask

Ask for help. Ask for lower interest rates. Ask for forgiveness when they make one late payment. Debt-free people take control of their finances and they aren’t meek about it. If you know someone who has met a financial milestone you admire (saved $1 million for retirement, bought a car in cash, etc.), don’t be afraid to ask how they did it.

6. They Save

Whether you got a significant bonus or a $25 check from Grandma, you should think first of paying yourself. This is true of your regular paycheck as well. You know you have to pay the rent (or mortgage), so treat your savings account the same way. Make it a habit. And better yet, make it a mindless habit by setting up automatic deposit. Debt-free people know adding even small amounts now will give you more financial freedom later.

7. They Set Goals

You’ll find it easier to put aside money if you have a strong sense of what it’s going toward. This works for when you are saving up for those shoes, planning a vacation or thinking about retirement. Debt-free people set specific goals so they know what they are striving for. This helps you stay on track. Retirement can be a hard one for young people. It seems so far away! Think about what sounds appealing about retirement. If it’s travel, imagine the places you will visit. Now the goal seems more specific.

8. They Say No

You may get lots of tempting offers throughout the week for lunch with co-workers or dinner with friends. Don’t be afraid to say no. Debt-free people know that saying no to smaller expenses can add up to big savings. This doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. Host a potluck dinner instead of trying out the new, expensive restaurant. Meet up with friends in the park for a walk instead of taking an expensive exercise class.

9. They Know the Value of Cash

Debt-free people know the value of a dollar… because they see it! It can be easy to overspend when you are never seeing actual money. Having to part with some cash can remind you the transaction you are making is real. Plus, once that cash is gone, it’s gone. Try only using cash for a while and see how it changes your perception of purchasing.

10. They Value Experiences Over Stuff

Debt-free people aren’t focused on things. They value experiences more than having the latest things. The average person will list family and friends high on what they value. But are your choices reflecting that? If you are working extra hours to pay for a fancy meal with the family, think about the tradeoffs. Would you be better off not working late and having two (or five or 10) meals at home with the family?

To become debt-free, you are going to have to shed some of your current bad habits and take on some new, more constructive ones. Use the people who already living debt free as inspiration.

By AJ Smith via http://finance.yahoo.com/news/10-characteristics-debt-free-people-130015814.html