Team gets dependency benefits for veteran s widow

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1 April 2011 Inside this issue: Nixon Peabody earns favorable settlement for immigrants defrauded by travel agent... 2 San Francisco associates get hands-on trial experience in prosecutor externship... 4 Client rebuilds home after fire loss thanks to NP s help on zoning appeal... 5 Nixon Peabody answers immigration need with work on post-deportation human rights case... 5 Firm helps Jobs for the Future leverage its unique school model... 6 Nixon Peabody continues aid to indigent tenants in housing disputes... 7 Congratulations to Scott O Connell on receiving the NH Bar s Dedicated Pro Bono Service Award... 8 Kudos to Neal McNamara on receiving the Rhode Island Bar s Dorothy Lohmann Community Service Award... 9 Thank you to everyone who contributed to the firm s pro bono efforts in Team gets dependency benefits for veteran s widow Continuing Nixon Peabody s pro bono support of veterans and their families, Boston associate Matt McLaughlin was able to help the widow of a World War II veteran obtain Dependency and Indemnity Compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after years of delay and denials that threatened her financial stability after her husband s death in The case was brought in by retired Boston partner Al Jordan himself a Navy veteran who has connected with veterans advocates to bring in these kinds of pro bono cases to Nixon Peabody. The widow s husband had sustained a severe grenade wound during World War II, and suffered related health impairments throughout his life. After her husband died of renal failure on October 3, 2004, the widow filed a claim with the Veteran s Administration, seeking a determination that her husband s death was due to a service-connected disability, and that she was entitled to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation and Accrued Benefits. In October 2005, the VA s Boston Regional Office denied her claims, finding an absence of evidence relating the cause of the veteran s death to his service-connected conditions. In March 2006, she filed a Notice of Disagreement with the VA s initial denial of her claim, but in February 2007, the VA again denied her claims. Later that month, she filed an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) in Washington, DC. Nixon Peabody got involved after she filed her appeal. The BVA judge looked at the previous denials and remanded her case to the Boston VA to provide specific medical evidence to support its conclusions. Through a contact of his, Al was able to procure the opinions, on a pro bono basis, of two distinguished pathologists in Boston who were Harvard professors affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess and Brigham and Women s medical centers. After reviewing medical records including many VA records that showed references to the husband s chronic renal insufficiency the pathologists concluded that it was

2 at least as likely as not (the applicable standard) that the husband s death was related to his serviceconnected injuries. Matt then submitted the pathologists opinions with a supporting memo of law to the local VA office. Due to our client s advancing age, the case was initially transferred to the Appeals Management Center in DC, which is supposed to look at cases on an expedited basis. However, after the case languished for about a year with no action taken by the VA, it was transferred back to the VA s Boston office. In May 2010, the VA produced the opinion of a doctor that disagreed with our client s expert pathologists, and again denied her claims, finding that there was no service connection to her husband s death. Matt and Al appealed again to the BVA, writing another brief advocating on behalf of their pathologists conclusions. Finally, in January 2011 more than six years after our client s initial claim the BVA ruled in her favor. Due to the lag time between her application and the decision, she will be entitled to substantial accrued pension benefits as well as an annual pension until she dies. The ruling could not have come soon enough, as our client had feared being unable to pay the taxes on her home without this assistance. Both our client and her adult son (who is on disability and lives with his mother) have been profuse in their thanks to Matt, the doctors, and Nixon Peabody for their help on the case. Matt, in particular, went above and beyond in leading the case through the tedious and often frustrating BVA/VA process, all while keeping up the morale of our client and her son during some very difficult times. The client s son recently reached out to Al with a very complimentary note, thanking Al, Matt, and others for helping his mother. The son writes, in part: You guys are the best I can never thank you enough. I have never in my life worked with people as kind and intelligent and caring as you all. I hope this can help other Veterans in some way as well. Very much thanks to all those involved. I could never express this fully as it is an immeasurable amount. We will never forget your kindness and all the hard work you have done for us. Nixon Peabody earns favorable settlement for immigrants defrauded by travel agent After litigating a case for more than two years, two Boston associates with incredible collaboration from several others in the firm were able to secure a favorable settlement for a class of hard-working immigrants who were defrauded out of airline tickets by a travel agency. In the fall of 2008, more than 50 people purchased tickets through Oasis Travel in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Most of the purchasers were low-income immigrants from Central and South American countries who were flying to visit their relatives for the holidays. Although they purchased tickets, they were left stranded many at the airport with their bags when the airlines 2 of 11

3 told them that they were never paid for the tickets. Some were forced to book new flights at a higher price while others had to cancel their trips altogether. A lot of the people who had booked flights with Oasis paid in cash and had nowhere else to turn. Associates Scott Sasjack and Sanga Emmanuel, under the supervision of Boston partner Gregg Rubenstein, got the case from Greater Boston Legal Services, which refers pro bono cases to Nixon Peabody. The NP team brought a civil action on behalf of the victims against the owners and operators of Oasis Travel. From the beginning, the defendants were uncooperative, ignoring the NP team s discovery requests. The defendants claimed they had no money, and that any money they did have was used up in the defense of their daughter who was being prosecuted in criminal court for the fraud. However, Scott and Sanga made several strategic decisions that helped lead to the favorable outcome. For instance, they worked together with the prosecutor on the daughter s criminal case so that the daughter fully realized the gravity of her situation. She would ultimately receive probation as part of the settlement deal. Also, when the defendants made an offer to pay $64,000 into the criminal court for restitution for the victims, Scott and Sanga realized that the defendants had not given everything they had promised in terms of the timing of the payments, so they continued litigating and ultimately forced the owners to the mediation table in October The mediation, Scott and Sanga said, was the turning point where their clients finally got a fair deal. The terms of the settlement $64,000 to be paid to the 52 known class members over the next two years gives them 100% compensation for their loss. Although $64,000 is not a huge sum of money, it meant a lot to the victims and is more money than anyone expected they would recover. As part of the settlement, which is awaiting final approval from the court, the victims will be certified as a class. Scott recalls: There was a moment at the beginning of the case where one client asked why it s so hard to get the money. I thought America is supposed to be a country of laws and justice. The client was repeating the word justice, Sanga says. We remembered these statements and were motivated. Scott and Sanga worked closely with the Chelsea Collaborative, a community organizing group that helped with the outreach to the victims. Several people across the firm, in addition to those already mentioned above, also deserve thanks for their contributions to the case. Partner Chris Allen lent his expertise on class action law; associate Eric Karlberg advised them on probate law as one of the defendant owners was deceased; associate Juan Concepcion helped translate the legal documents into Spanish; paralegal Robert Meserve helped conduct an asset search that uncovered the defendants assets in Florida; paralegals Joanne Sylvester and Deb Woodbury, and case assistant Marilen Hartnett helped research factual issues, and draft and file pleadings; and members of the Boston library also helped research facts and download pleadings. 3 of 11

4 San Francisco associates get hands-on trial experience in prosecutor externship Nixon Peabody s San Francisco office has begun participating in a program that allows firm associates to serve for eight weeks as deputy district attorneys in the Marin County District Attorney s Office. DA s offices throughout California are fiscally strapped, and volunteer programs, such as the one in Marin County, fill a critical need for prosecutors while also offering hands-on experience to the associates who volunteer. San Francisco associate Stephanie Karnavas brought the idea to Nixon Peabody after learning about the Marin County program through a friend at another firm who was participating in the program. She also became the first lawyer from Nixon Peabody to participate. From October through December, Nixon Peabody seconded Stephanie to the DA s office, where she worked full time for eight weeks and received a tremendous amount of valuable courtroom exposure. After reviewing some training materials and observing a jury selection in her first week, Stephanie was in court every week thereafter, handling her own motions and trials. Stephanie brought four jury cases to trial all involving defendants accused of driving under the influence (DUI). She received a conviction in three of them and a hung jury on the fourth. Her other courtroom experience included arguing several motions in limine and opposing a defendant s motion for a directed verdict. Stephanie also prepped approximately six other cases for trial that either settled or were continued. Stephanie is now back with her Commercial Litigation group at Nixon Peabody where she, in her third year with the firm, handles a variety of cases, mostly in the area of financial services. She calls her time in the fast-paced DA s office a confidence boosting experience that has helped her with her presentation and public speaking skills while also exposing her to the mechanics of a trial firsthand. I gained great substantive experience examining witnesses, conducting voir dire, asserting objections during trial, and arguing jury instructions and a variety of motions that will carry over into my practice here, she says. Nixon Peabody continues to participate with the Marin County program, most recently with associate Lynn Fiorentino who just finished up an eight-week stint of her own. Lynn tried three misdemeanor cases: one petty theft, one driving under the influence, and one credit card fraud. She obtained two guilty verdicts and one hung jury in the same case previously tried by Stephanie. This intense, challenging program taught me invaluable trial skills, increased my confidence in the courtroom, and taught me how to make effective evidentiary arguments with very little preparation time, Lynn says. Associate Matt Richards is currently seconded to the program, and, as of press time, he had already obtained a guilty verdict on both counts in his first trial. Those associates, counsel, and partners who wish to be considered for future assignments to this program should contact San Francisco partner Steve Schrey, who is organizing the firm s participation. 4 of 11

5 Client rebuilds home after fire loss thanks to NP s help on zoning appeal Thanks to the work of some of our Rochester lawyers and a summer associate, a pro bono client in Canandaigua, New York, will be able to replace his home that was lost in a fire in The client was a man of modest means who worked for the sewer department of a local municipality and had a long history of health problems. Sadly, his life was turned upside down when fire struck his premanufactured home on Mother s Day 2010, leaving him with little else than the clothes on his back. He was forced to live for a time in a less-than adequate motel before his sister was able to take him in. Making matters worse, the town denied his application for a building permit to construct his newly purchased premanufactured home in the same spot, explaining that he was not allowed to locate his home in that zoning district any longer. Without insurance or anywhere to turn, the client contacted Real Estate partner Jared Lusk, since he was familiar with Jared s zoning work. Jared agreed to help challenge the town s determination, and he enlisted the help of Real Estate associate Ashley Baker, summer associate Helen Root, and Real Estate partner Tom Greiner. Despite their best efforts to avoid a hearing, the town and the chair of its Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) ordered a hearing for September Following compelling arguments at the hearing by Jared, Ashley, and Helen which were bolstered by Ashley, Helen, and Tom s tremendous pre-hearing work the board issued a favorable ruling, allowing the client to build his new home on the lot. Jared credits the great outcome in this case to a total team effort. The client, who purchased a new shirt for the hearing after the loss of his wardrobe in the fire, was thrilled with the result. He expects to close on his new home this spring. Nixon Peabody answers immigration need with work on post-deportation human rights cases While looking for new pro bono projects and referral agencies to work with in winter 2009, Boston partner Matthew Lynch saw an article in BC Law Magazine, his alma mater s alumni publication, about BC Law s Post-Deportation Human Rights Project (PDHRP) the first and only project dedicated to representing individuals who have been deported. The program serves an important need as there are thousands of individuals with U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident spouses, children, and other relatives who are deported each year and separated from their families. The 5 of 11

6 article described a clear need for assistance, although it was also clear that there weren t a lot of law firms available to help. With the help of senior associate Juan Concepcion, who is a member of BC s board, Matthew contacted Professor Daniel Kanstroom, who founded and directs the PDHRP, about getting Nixon Peabody involved in the program. That led to another call with Jessica Chicco, the supervising attorney on the project, who was thrilled at NP s offer to help. She suggested that NP attorneys could assist the program in two ways: on cases, serving as counsel or co-counsel, or by training attorneys and law students. On November 3, our Boston office hosted the first training session, entitled After Deportation: Bringing Family Members Back on an Immigrant Visa, which featured Professor Kanstroom, Ms. Chicco, and several NP lawyers. Approximately 20 people attended the session, which covered the fundamentals of petitioning for a relative who is outside the country, including the most common grounds of inadmissibility facing those who have previously been deported and the waivers that may be available to overcome those grounds of inadmissibility. Already the firm has taken on two cases referred by the PDHRP one being handled by Patents associate Leena Karttunen Contarino, and another handled by Commercial Litigation associates Ronaldo Rauseo-Ricupero and Bankruptcy associate Lesley Varghese. More cases are expected, and participation is open to attorneys around the firm not just in Boston. Contact Matthew Lynch or Stacey Slater if you are interested. While these cases are a little more challenging and require a little more effort than run-of-the-mill referrals for immigration cases, they are also incredibly interesting and serve a tremendous need. Firm helps Jobs for the Future leverage its unique school model Over the years, many Nixon Peabody lawyers have provided pro bono legal services to Jobs for the Future (JFF), an organization that seeks, among other things, to place students who traditionally have low rates of college matriculation onto college campuses during their senior years of high school. The work we ve done for JFF ranges from employment matters to corporate work. More recently, JFF contacted the firm for counsel on JFF s rights to sell and license the unique student information system that it developed under a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. JFF uses a Student Information System to collect and analyze data from schools in the national early college high school network. Using grant funds from the Gates Foundation, JFF also developed a unique student information system for one school that had special data needs because it is designed to advance students based on their achievement of standards rather than their time spent in courses. This type of school model is likely to become more prevalent nationally. 6 of 11

7 Anticipating a growing demand and market for the type of data system it developed under the Gates grant, JFF contacted Nixon Peabody and was connected with associate Dan Dovi and partner Peter Durant from our Brands and Creations group for assistance. Dan and Peter put together a memo to JFF that clearly addressed the organizations specific concerns over its rights in light of intellectual property provisions in contracts with the Gates Foundation and the product s developer. JFF was thrilled with the response. Dan received an within a few days from JFF s Associate Vice President, thanking Dan and his team for their excellent and useful work. Lisa Chapnick, JFF s Chief Operating Officer, in a subsequent correspondence noted: This is just one of so many examples of the amazing work that you and your firm do for us. Once we got our act together to get you the information we needed, Daniel jumped on it and gave us clear and comprehensive guidance. This is incredibly helpful as we may want to use this tool to help assess and support underperforming students. Thank you, thank you. Nixon Peabody continues aid to indigent tenants in housing disputes Landlord-tenant work is a fertile area for pro bono work, largely because of the importance of housing and the disadvantaged position in which indigent tenants often find themselves in comparison to their landlords. Nixon Peabody continues to represent indigent tenants in landlordtenant and related housing disputes in the communities where we live and work. Two recent examples show just how much our legal work in this area means to tenants in need. DC lawyers get landlord to make needed repairs As part of Nixon Peabody s participation in the DC Bar s Pro Bono Program Advocacy and Justice Clinic, DC counsel Christopher Wallace, with the assistance of DC associate Kenneth Nichols, secured a very favorable settlement for an indigent client who lives in a rent-controlled apartment in Northeast Washington, DC. The tenant and his daughter were living in an apartment replete with housing code violations, including vermin infestation, a leaking roof, mold, unsafe electrical wiring, a broken air conditioner, and other unsafe and unsanitary conditions. The landlord had instituted an action against the client for failure to pay rent after the client withheld rent because of all the housing code violations. The client filed counterclaims against the landlord for the housing code violations, and Chris instituted a Bell hearing, arguing that the tenant should be allowed to pay less rent pending resolution of the case. While he was successful at the hearing in winning a temporary reduction in rent for the client, it would prove to be the first of about a dozen hearings and inspections over the next few months to determine whether the landlord was indeed fixing the deficiencies in the client s apartment. At one of the first hearings, the judge took the unheard of step of contacting the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and asked that an inspector speak at the hearings to 7 of 11

8 give an update on the apartment s conditions. The inspector s reports proved very beneficial to the client s case since they clearly pointed out all of the code violations in black and white. After multiple inspections and court hearings, and even a heated but unsuccessful mediation attempt, Chris and Ken succeeded in requiring the landlord without a trial to spend thousands of dollars on repairs to correct all housing code violations and replace the roof. Chris and Ken were also able to negotiate a hefty rent abatement of nearly $4,000. Most importantly, after 10 years living in the run-down apartment, the client now has a safe home that is up to code. Boston team helps tenant resolve lease issue Boston Commercial Litigation associate Danielle McLaughlin helped a Boston tenant resolve a landlord-tenant issue in the client s favor. While the issue never got near a courtroom or even a complaint, Danielle s efforts in counseling her client demonstrate how client wins often occur just by equipping clients with the knowledge they need to accomplish their goals. Danielle met her client, Sara, at the Lawyers Clearinghouse Massachusetts Legal Clinic for the Homeless at Boston s Pine Street Inn, where NP lawyers often provide on-site legal services to the residents of the homeless shelter. Sara relies on Section 8 subsidized housing and was thinking about changing apartments, in part because of a troubled relationship with her landlord. However, she did not have a signed lease, and she had received conflicting information as to whether the lack of a current lease would jeopardize her Section 8 voucher. Sara asked Danielle to clarify whether the holder of a Section 8 voucher was required by law to have a written lease. After reviewing her client s paperwork and consulting with Real Estate partner Matthew Lynch, Danielle advised Sara that despite the lack of a formal amendment to the lease extending its terms, there was an equitable argument to be made that signing extensions to her Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract might possibly give rise to an implied-in-fact lease extension. She added that the landlord would have a difficult time using the lack of a formal extension of the lease as a basis for eviction, since the landlord had not kept up with her own legal obligations. Just days after receiving the information, Sara s landlord agreed to sign a written lease with her for a lease term through April Sara duly signed, and reports that the relationship with her landlord has improved. Congratulations to Scott O Connell on receiving the NH Bar s Dedicated Pro Bono Service Award In February 2011, Manchester partner Scott O Connell received the Dedicated Pro Bono Service Award for 2011 from the New Hampshire Bar Association s Pro Bono Referral Program. Scott was recognized by the New Hampshire bar for his tremendous pro bono efforts on behalf of people in need. 8 of 11

9 Among his many pro bono accomplishments, Scott spearheaded the creation of our Domestic Protection team that provides victims of domestic violence with emergency legal services. He personally spent 170 hours on these matters time that included regular trips to New Hampshire s North Country to provide legal services to victims of domestic violence living in Coos County. A leader within the firm s Litigation Department, Scott also helped expand our Manchester office s pro bono efforts when he and others challenged every lawyer in the firm s Manchester office to render 80 pro bono hours in The office embraced this challenge and exceeded it as the attorneys in the office rendered nearly 100 hours of pro bono service per attorney for 2010, with a 100 percent pro bono participation rate. The program deeply appreciates Scott s steadfast involvement in and commitment to providing legal representation to low-income families and individuals who would otherwise be left on their own to navigate the legal system. His volunteer work through the Pro Bono Program truly makes a difference for the needy and vulnerable, said Virginia A. Martin, Associate Executive Director for Legal Services at the New Hampshire Bar Association. Kudos to Neal McNamara on receiving the Rhode Island Bar s Dorothy Lohmann Community Service Award Providence Office Managing Partner Neal McNamara has been named one of the recipients of the 2011 Dorothy Lohmann Community Service Award. Presented by the Rhode Island Bar Association and in honor of Rhode Island attorney Dorothy Lohmann, this award recognizes attorneys across the state who generously donate their time and legal expertise for charitable work. Neal was nominated by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV), a nonprofit that includes six member agencies and is dedicated to ending domestic violence. The RICADV provides shelter and supportive services to more than 10,000 victims of domestic violence each year and works to strengthen laws to protect victims and raise public awareness. Neal has worked with the RICADV for more than 10 years, providing an array of pro bono services, from advice on corporate legal matters and employment issues to litigation. In one particular case, Neal successfully defended the RICADV in a lawsuit brought by a man who claimed that the RICADV had damaged his reputation by allowing his ex-wife to speak out publicly about him. A loss could have created a chilling effect on the willingness of abuse victims to speak out in public. Instead, the RICADV was able to launch a nationally recognized public awareness campaign, featuring three real Rhode Island survivors, called It Happens Here. 9 of 11

10 Thank you to everyone who contributed to the firm s pro bono efforts in 2010 The firm greatly appreciates the hard work and dedication by everyone who contributed to our pro bono efforts in As we ve seen through the stories in this newsletter and in our day-to-day practices the tremendous commitment to pro bono shown by our lawyers and staff firmwide is making a real, positive difference in the lives of our pro bono clients. I m proud to report that many of our lawyers met the firm s Pro Bono Challenge by donating more than 60 hours to pro bono in 2010 and many of them went above and beyond by donating more than 100 hours! said Pro Bono Partner Stacey Slater. Over the next few months, each of our U.S. offices will be organizing events to celebrate our pro bono accomplishments. We will be distributing Peabody Awards to everyone who performed over 100 hours of pro bono, and Certificates of Recognition to those who donated over 60 hours. In honor of the Manchester office, which had the highest number of pro bono hours per lawyer, the firm has donated $2,500 to the New Hampshire Campaign for Legal Services ( CLS ). CLS raises funds to help meet the legal aid needs of low-income and elderly New Hampshire residents through its support of three legal aid organizations: the Legal Advice and Referral Center, the New Hampshire Pro Bono Referral Program, and New Hampshire Legal Assistance. Congratulations to the following professionals who generously donated more than 100 hours to pro bono activities during Elizabeth Athenas Joshua Barlow Krista Bell Carolyn Bills Lois Broussard Tiana Butcher Joseph Carello Lawrence Ceriello Jennifer Collins Daniel Deane Michelle Dhanda Victoria Donohue Dennis Drebsky Brian Duffy Robert Ebe Sanga Emmanuel Lynn Fiorentino Marjorie Fochtman Libby Ford Linn Freedman Brian French Margarita Gevondyan Erik Goergen John Hayes Talley M. Henry Jacob Herstek Michael Hickey Dan Hurteau Rebecca Husman Oscar Jimenez Alexander Jordan Stephanie Karnavas Randall Kelly William Kelly Holly Kilibarda Daniel Kolodner Kelly Kramer Kelly Kress Barbara Lukeman Paul Lynd Richard Marx Christopher Mason Matthew McLaughlin Timothy Mungovan Andrew Neilson Lindsey Nelson Tanya Nesbitt Lynnette Nogueras-Trummer Scott O'Connell Joseph Ortego Gauri Patil Anita Pelletier Frank Penski Amy Pham 10 of 11

11 Shirley Phillips Arthur Pressman Elizabeth Qually Ronaldo Rauseo-Ricupero Susan Reaman Matthew Richards Regina Rockefeller Susan Rodio Laura Roethel Shellie Rosan Barry Rothchild Jonathan Sablone Janet Sadoff Rudy Salo Kimberly Samuels Scott Sasjack Kevin Saunders Michael Schnipper Joanne Sylvester Christopher Thomas David Vicinanzo Diana Vilmenay David West Elizabeth Wood Adam Wright Sherli Yeroushalmi Thanks to the following professionals who donated between 60 and 99 hours to pro bono activities during Sarah Andre Brian Avello Ashley Baker Timothy Baldwin Anne Belin Sarah Teachworth Boehs Deborah Burton Reginald Champagne Paul Clifton-Waite Cameron Cloar Allan Cohen Dwight Collin Carolyn Collins Juan Concepcion Michael Cooney Scott DeMartino Lawrence DiCara Paul Dimoh Benjamin Dwyer Ross Eichberg Elaine Enfonde James Fabian Sam Feigin Meghan Fennelly Gina Fornario Carolyn Gabbay Melisa Gerecci Jeffrey Gilbreth Matthew Grazier Kate Hard Ripley Hastings Peter Hoefs Merrill Hoopengardner Dale Hudson Renee Jackson Kristin Jamberdino John Koeppel David Kolek Sunny E. Lee Jeffrey Lesk Brent Little Alexandra Lopez-Casero Jared Lusk Matthew Lynch Gordon MacDonald Raymond Mariani Daniel McAvoy Victor Milione Darren Miller Laurie Miller Joann Moolsintong Evelyn Moreno Patrice Morrison Deirdre Nash Kenneth Nichols Christopher Ogden John Partigan Vincent Polsinelli David Portal Edward Puerta Amanda Pugh Abigail Reardon Michael Reardon Jena Rotheim Christine Sackett Jeffrey Sacks Jon Schumacher Talis Seja Aram Seo Scott Sergio Kenneth Silverberg George Skelly Stacey Slater Sheldon Smith Herbert Stevens Patrice Harris Talbott David Tennant Khara Tusa Lesley Varghese Christopher Wallace Kristen Mollnow Walsh Robert Weikert Brian Whittaker Jodi Rosen Wine Jeremy Wolk 11 of 11

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