On April 22, 2013, Ruth Faust (’13), Jessica Nellis (’14), Amanda Ramnaraign (’14), Erica Rickards (’14), Elizabeth Stapleton (’14), and Tianying Tang (’14) had the opportunity to observe the proceedings of the United States Tax Court at the James T. Foley United States Courthouse in downtown Albany. The Tax Court is physically located in Washington D.C., but presiding Judges travel nationwide throughout the year to conduct trials in various cities.
Ariele Sussman’s (’12) Offer in Compromise to reduce a tax liability from $15,200 to $780 was recently accepted by the IRS. Ariele successfully argued that client has insufficient assets and income to pay the full amount and that any enforcement by levy would produce an economic hardship.
Ruth Faust (’13) appeared for a Collection Due Process Hearing before the Appeals Division of the IRS. Ruth’s client was denied dependent classification for his two children that he supports and that live in Mexico. Ruth argued that due to multiple exemptions and child tax credits that the client is entitled to; his liability should be reduced so much that the IRS would actually owe client a refund. We all anxiously await the decision from the Appeals Officer.
As the FVLC students wrap up their semester it is hard to believe just how much they have accomplished! At the beginning of the semester they were scheduled for multiple court appearances, 2 pre-trial conferences, 4 trials (with all of the discovery work that they entail) and a U Nonimmigrant Visa application.
All of the FVLC students engaged in either discovery or negotiations (or both) with opposing counsel this semester. Dana Stanton (’13) and Stephen Valiquette (’13) successfully negotiated an agreement in their custody and family offense case, granting custody and an order of protection to their client. Gracja Nowak (’13) and Nicholas Tuttle (’13) were also able to convince the opposing party to agree to a settlement, granting their client sole custody and an extended order of protection.
After settling their Family Court cases, Dana, Stephen, Gracja and Nicholas have also been hard at work for their immigration clients. In the last several weeks they have begun gathering the evidence and information necessary for their clients’ U-Visa application – including drafting multiple letters and researching several complicated areas of Immigration Law.
Kayla Molinaro (’14) and Taalib Horton (’14) effectively conducted the start of their client’s custody and order of protection trial – successfully objecting to the only piece of evidence that opposing counsel has attempted to enter thus far. The conclusion of that trial is scheduled for June.
Heath Hardman (’14) and Andrea Gellen (’13) have spent a lot of time this semester skillfully navigating an extremely lengthy discovery demand. Thus far they have responded to nearly 300 demands and interrogatories. In addition, during pre-trial conference last week, the team successfully argued for an in camera interview of the children in their case.
The last couple of weeks of this semester in the Health Law Clinic were marked by a theme of collaboration. Health Law Interns Caroline Lang (’13) and Kaivan Mangouri (’14) collaborated with Tax Clinic Staff Attorney Brett M. Blair, Esq. (’09) to assist one of their clients. Caroline and Kaivan were preparing a post disability hearing strategy concerning amending their client’s disputed earnings records.
Health Law Interns also collaborated with Professor Tara Pleat’s Financial Planning for the Elderly Class, Albany Law School’s Pro Bono Law Society, NYSBA, several local volunteer elder law attorneys, Community Hospice, and the Center for Donation and Transplant to host a Community Healthcare Decision Making event at the law school. Many in the audience left with a new sense of empowerment, with either completed health care proxies and living wills or the knowledge and confidence to continue this important discussion with their families.
Finally, last week, members of Professor Laurie Shanks’s Client Interviewing class joined Health Law students to discuss ways to manage career stress and balance professional and personal goals.
The ITLC has ended the semester with two significant victories. Christopher Wagner (’14) represented a client who was fired from his job after he was arrested during an incident that occurred outside of the workplace. During the representation, an important ethical issue arose regarding the client’s potential testimony at the administrative hearing. The arrest was central to the firing and, therefore, questions could be asked about it at the hearing. It was possible that any statements made at the hearing could be used against the client in his criminal case. Christopher had to speak to the client’s criminal defense attorney to find out the parameters of what the client could say during the hearing about the pending criminal action. This consultation with the defense lawyer was essential to protecting the rights of the client. Ultimately, the testimony was limited to what the criminal defense attorney advised and the rest of the facts of the case were in the client’s favor. Another win!
After two appearances before an ALJ for a client who quit her job after experiencing retaliation related to a harassment complaint, Ronnie Lindberg (’14) and Mark Houston (’14) persuaded the ALJ with a public policy argument to expand the scope of the hearing and allow the client to testify fully about her circumstances. Ronnie and Mark did extensive research in order to find the strongest legal argument and, in the process, created great precedent. This case was the final win of an exciting semester!
Sean Cambridge (’14) has been in the Saratoga County Court, Saratoga Springs City DV Court, Malta Town Court, and Mechanicsville Town Court assisting specialized SVU prosecutors on plea negotiations, announcement of indictments, arraignment and bail hearings , Sexual Offender Registration Act (SORA) hearings, and other court calendar events. He has also conducted quick and necessary research on a litany of subjects including Aggravated Harassment, Criminal Contempt, Flight as Consciousness of Guilt, Prompt Outcry Exceptions, and the requirements for Serious Physical Injury.
John P. Coghlan (’14) second-chaired an attempted murder trial in which he wrote a motion in limine to admit four hearsay statements. The judge agreed to admit 3 of the 4 statements. Marshall Milligan (’13) turned his attention to researching the proof needed to modify an order of protection and advised his supervising prosecutor how to oppose such a request that would likely result in continued domestic violence.
Sherri Eckles (’13) conducted her first criminal trial in which she examined witnesses, introduced evidence, objected to improper cross examination, and had to navigate the difficulties in appearing before a judge who was unsympathetic to her case and to her victims.
John Griese (’14) has been handling the hectic pace of arraignment calendar at Albany City DV Court while appearing before Judge William Carter. Although initially nervous about speaking in court, John used this experience and his mentorship by ADA Jennifer Harvey-McCanney (’09) to good advantage in his final clinical simulation in which all students studiously prepared for and then conducted a victim update interview, a plea negotiation, and a preliminary hearing within 50 minutes.
Jessica Nellis (‘14) is currently finalizing a settlement reached with the Office of the Chief Counsel of the Internal Revenue Service for a case docketed in United States Tax Court. Jessica successfully argued an Innocent Spouse claim on behalf of client that granted equitable relief from a $19,300 liability. The liability arose from joint tax returns that were signed by client under the threat of violence from client’s spouse. Jessica proved that client was the victim of abuse prior to the time the returns were signed, and that, as a result of the prior abuse, client did not challenge the treatment of any items on the returns for fear of the spouse’s retaliation. In arguing the client’s case, Jessica had to prepare a witness to be questioned by IRS Chief Counsel. Jessica did such an amazing job preparing her witness that within ten minutes of the completion of witness questioning, she received a phone call from IRS Chief Counsel with the settlement offer.
After Alex Hill (’13) argued before the IRS that collection of his client’s $36,500 tax liability would produce an economic hardship to his client, the IRS accepted Mr. Hill’s offer to reduce the debt to $240. This is the second time in the past month that an Offer In Compromise submitted by Alex Hill has been accepted. Great job Alex!
This week the Tax Clinic students: Ruth Faust (’13), Jessica Nellis (’14), Amanda Ramnaraign (’14), Erica Rickards (’14), Elizabeth Stapleton (’14), and Tianying Tang (’14), assisted in filing 28 Federal and State Income Tax Returns for the clients!
The last few weeks have been exciting in the FVLC. Dana Stanton (’14), Stephen Valiquette (’14), Gracja Nowak (’13), & Nicholas Tuttle (’13) have been working on a complicated immigration case. They are representing the undocumented parents of a U.S. citizen daughter who was victimized here in the United States. The students have been gathering the necessary information for a U-Visa application which allows victims, or indirect victims, of crimes to obtain status in the United States. One of the largest hurdles to such an application is finding someone with both the willingness and authority to sign a Supplement B form which certifies that the applicants have been helpful in the investigation or prosecution of a crime - and must be signed by authorized personal in a government agency. Often it can take months to get this form signed. The students were able to enlist the help of the investigating detective who even hand-delivered the final certifications within two hours of meeting the students. The student team’s efforts have put the clients one step closer to their goal!
Kayla Molinaro (’14) and Taalib Horton (’14), will try a case next week in Schenectady County Family Court. They have made a huge effort in the last week to settle the case but are also drafting examinations and subpoenaing witnesses in case an agreement cannot be reached. Andrea Gellen (’13) and Heath Hardman (’14), are preparing for a pre-trial conference in one case and trial in another. They will face off against an Albany Law School alumna in a highly contested custody case. Good luck to both teams who are hard at work preparing!
Attention to detail is the mark of a good lawyer. This was demonstrated at a critical juncture in a case handled by Law Intern, Brielle Danko (’14). Her client was fired after his employer alleged that he placed an order for supplies without permission. He was denied unemployment insurance benefits and at the first hearing appearance, the employer produced a sheet purporting to be the supply order in question. The employer testified that the sheet was proof that our client placed the order. Brielle was not expecting this piece of evidence; however, she took the time to scrutinize it and objected to its inclusion in the record because the date in question did not correspond with the employer’s testimony. After her objection the employer admitted that it must have been a different order for a different day.
This case illustrates an important lesson in handling any legal matter. Taking the time to deduce the relevance of any information you are given is a key to success. Brielle did so during the hearing and served the client well. Another win!
Interns Sean Glendening (’14), Cody Himelrick (’14), Caroline Lang (’13), Kaivan Mangouri (’14), Stefanie Rokosz (’13), and Carly Walas (’13), have continued to make an impact in our community. Our teams have secured two favorable on the record decisions in disability cases, represented another client at a disability hearing, and are preparing prehearing memoranda for two additional disability cases. Interns have also assisted several clients complete Powers of Attorneys, Health Care Proxies, and Last Wills. In collaboration with the Health Law Society and Pro Bono Society, Health Law Interns will hold community outreach training on Health Care Proxies and Living Wills on April 18, 2013.
Many of the clients of the Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Clinic are forced to live a segregated life in an institution rather than in the community. Despite a federal law that requires that states provide Medicaid services in the most integrated setting appropriate for the individual and the fact that it is often cheaper to serve someone in the community, New York serves large numbers of people in these segregated settings. The clinic is celebrating the freedom of two of our clients. One gentleman who lived in the institution since ’96 and the other since ’04 were finally given the opportunity to move into the community last week. This was made possible in large part by Jamie VanDenburgh (’14) and Taalib Horton (’14) the two students who represented these clients last semester.
The Albany Law School Clinic and Justice Center is funded, in part, through public grants and private donors. For more information please contact the clinic at 518-445-2328, or