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2007 March - April

Establishing Paternity Through Voluntary Acknowledgment

By Paula Roberts

Paternity acknowledgment has become a popular means of easily establishing paternity for the children of unmarried couples. However, advocates should be aware of potential pitfalls—the unavailability of forms and services, questions about the legality of voluntary acknowledgment by minors, and the issues that arise when seeking rescission or challenging validity—in order to advise their clients better and shape their states’ acknowledgment procedures.

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Reforming State Rules on Asset Limits

How to Remove Barriers to Saving and Asset Accumulation in Public Benefit Programs

By Dory Rand

Most states impose limits on the assets that an applicant for or recipient of public benefits may possess and still be eligible. Awareness is growing that such eligibility criteria are counterproductive. Administering asset tests imposes an administrative burden on state agencies, and few low-income households have any assets. The tests also send the inappropriate message that accumulating assets causes problems. Federal law gives states flexibility in setting asset limits, however, and a growing number of states are reforming their asset rules, including eliminating the tests altogether in their cash assistance programs.

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The 2006 Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law

By Victoria Pulos

Massachusetts last year passed legislation designed to ensure universal health coverage for all its residents. Tens of thousands who were previously uninsured now have coverage, but the impact of the law’s individual mandate remains to be seen. Other states have taken notice, although Massachusetts’ relatively generous Medicaid program and highly regulated insurance market could make Massachusetts’ approach difficult to replicate. The intensive involvement of advocates in both the legislative and implementation efforts has been critical to shaping the health reform law to meet the needs of low-income residents.

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Twenty Years of Federal Homeless Education Law

Where We Stand on Enforcement

By Joy Moses

The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act addresses the needs of homeless children and youth seeking a public school education. Students and their families may enforce their rights through state administrative procedures. Leading cases Lampkin v. District of Columbia and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty v. New York also support the students’ right to enforce the McKinney-Vento Act under Section 1983 and under the Constitution.

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Judicial Deference to Administrative Agencies and Its Limits

By Graham G. Martin & David A. Super

Clients facing unwarranted actions by administrative agencies have extensive recourse. Applying the fundamentals of judicial deference to administrative agencies outlined in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council and limited by United States v. Mead Corporation, one can challenge agencies’ interpretations of statutes. Clients might also claim that an agency failed to promulgate rules when setting policy or failed to meet requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act in rule making or that its actions were arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion.

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Turning Closed Military Property into Affordable Housing and Homeless Services

By Patricia F. Julianelle

The Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act of 1994 requires that plans to convert surplus military properties from military to nonmilitary use take into account the needs of homeless persons and establish a process for homeless service providers to receive base property at no cost. Following the process allows advocates to obtain converted property for affordable-housing developments and service centers for the homeless in their communities.

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American Dream or Nightmare?

Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Owners of Manufactured Homes

By Ishbel Dickens

Ownership of manufactured homes is a means to attain unsubsidized, affordable housing for millions of low-income people. But the dream of homeownership can quickly turn to a nightmare when homeowners fail to receive the same lending protections and advantages as buyers of site-built homes, experience manufactured-housing community landlords’ abusive practices, or become displaced when the land beneath their homes is sold to developers. Advocates can help solve these problems and preserve this indispensable supply of affordable housing.

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Affirmatively Litigating

Using Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) to Depose an Organization and Avoid the "Discovery Runaround"

By Greg Bass

When testimony about an organization’s policies, protocols, events, and documents, is necessary, an advocate can obtain the organization’s knowledge by using Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6). Rule 30(b)(6) requires the organization to designate one or more knowledgeable witnesses to testify on its behalf on matters known or reasonably available to it. The organization designates the witness in response to a deposition notice that must describe the subject matter to be covered.

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