1 FOWLER RODRIGUEZ Counselors at Law Our 25th Anniversary Immigration Group Joins Miami Office Norman Sullivan Named Maritime Lawyer of the Year Congratulations to Norman C. Sullivan, Jr. who was selected by his peers in the New Orleans Bar Association for the Distinguished Maritime Lawyer of the Year Award for Our Florida Attorneys: (Back)Thomas Oppenheimer, Maria I. Hoelle, J. David Peña, Mark D. Rich, Fernando E. Rojas, James P. Gueits (Front)Francis X. Sexton, Cristina Casabianca, Juan E. Serralles, IV, G. Luis Dominguez, Michael A. Rosen The attorneys from the Miami law firm J. David Peña and Associates have joined Fowler Rodriguez (FR), an international law firm with offices in Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Gulfport, Mobile, and abroad in Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia. Peña s group has developed particular expertise in helping foreigners obtain EB5 or Investor Visas. These are visas which allow foreign nationals to invest a requisite amount ($500,000 - $1,000,000) in exchange for permanent residence or a Green Card. George J. Fowler, III says, The firm s worldwide clients often require immigration assistance, and David Peña s team will be able to help Fowler Rodriguez clients with these needs, particularly those who are willing to invest in business and create employment in the U.S. Fowler Rodriguez Opens 2nd Office in Colombia John Scialdone spearheaded the opening of a new Fowler Rodriguez office in Cartagena, Colombia. The office was created to facilitate connections between Gulf Coast oil and gas contractors and Colombian partners to form joint ventures and develop infrastructure for Colombia s recent economic boom. This is the firm s 2nd office in Colombia; the other is in Bogota. Mr. Sullivan is engaged in a comprehensive litigation practice at Fowler Rodriguez. As partner, his primary area of expertise is maritime litigation, with emphasis on products liability, contract and insurance law, and construction disputes. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1967, and then was commissioned as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He received his J.D. degree from the University of Santa Clara in 1970, and thereafter was admitted to the practice of law in the State of California. Mr. Sullivan served on active duty with the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam where he was awarded the Army s Bronze Star. Upon discharge from the military in 1973, he was admitted to practice law in Louisiana and entered private practice. Mr. Sullivan is admitted to practice before all Louisiana state and federal courts, all California state courts, the U.S. District Court for the Northern and Central Districts of California, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
2 In The News: Norman Sullivan Named as Maritime Lawyer of the Year (cont.) Judge Edith Joy Brown Clement, U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Norman Sullivan and his wife Betty Sullivan, Yvonne Gelpi, George J. Fowler, III, Antonio J. Rodriguez, Edward F. LeBreton, III (FR). Mat M. Gray, III, George J. Fowler, III, Norman C. Sullivan, Jr. and L.J. Schilling (FR). Judge Edith Joy Brown Clement, U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, spoke on Norm s achievements. From Fowler Rodriguez: A. T. Chenault, Mat M. Gray, III, Larry DeMarcay, George J. Fowler, III, Cheryl Schilling, Antonio J. Rodriguez, Delos E. Flint, Jr., L.J. Schilling, Cynthia G. Harris, Catherine A. Vollenweider (FR)attended to show their support for Norm. Summary Judgment for South African Marine Corporation Recently, Norman Sullivan, acting on behalf of South African Marine Corporation, and Phil Brickman, acting on behalf of the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, were able to get their clients dismissed from Mesothelioma litigation. The claimants were longshoremen who worked in the Port of New Orleans 40 or 50 years ago and during their careers unloaded raw asbestos from vessels in the Port. The South African Marine Corporation owned vessels that carried asbestos cargoes into the Port during the period in question. In a well-reasoned opinion, the Court concluded that it could not be established that the longshoremen ever unloaded asbestos from South African Marine Corporation vessels, let alone that any exposure could have been a substantial contributing factor to the alleged mesothelioma. The litigation continues against numerous other defendants. 2
3 Cases of Note: Punitive Damages under Texas Law Reversed Fowler Rodriguez attorney Mat Gray represented the liability insurers of CITGO, owner and operator of a refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana. During a rain event, a wastewater tank overflowed contaminating the Ca1casieu River with slop oil. Thereafter, over 900 plaintiffs filed suit in state court claiming personal injuries as a result of exposure to toxic substances. Plaintiffs sought both compensatory and punitive damages. CITGO admitted negligence and liability, but denied liability for punitive damages and disputed the amount of compensatory damages. After a jury trial of 14 plaintiffs, the judge held that because CITGO was headquartered in Texas, the case met certain criteria under the Louisiana Conflict of Law articles which allowed the application of Texas law. $30,000 per plaintiff was awarded as punitive damages, based on the theory that even though the accident occurred in Louisiana, since CITGO s headquarters were in Texas where budgetary decisions were made, Texas had a greater interest than Louisiana in the application of its laws. The judge denied that CITGO was domiciled in Louisiana. The award created a multimillion exposure considering the pending claims. The case was appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, with briefs filed by defense counsel and Mr. Gray. The appeals court affirmed the state district court judgment. Thereafter, Mr. Gray and CITGO counsel filed briefs in the Louisiana Supreme Court. In its opinion March 13, 2012, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the lower courts on the punitive damage issue, holding that that CITGO was considered a Louisiana domiciliary under the Conflict of Law articles. Further, the Court held that Louisiana had the more substantial interest in applying its law, which disfavored punitive damages. Finally, there were no extraordinary circumstances so as to apply Texas law. This case is significant. The lower courts precedent would have opened the door for plaintiffs to seek punitive damages arising from injuries to Louisiana residents occurring in Louisiana against corporations headquartered out-of-state whose decisions affect Louisiana business operations. Also, Louisiana corporations would not have such exposure. Settlement Reached in Multi-Death Gas Tank Explosion Mat Gray represented the London liability insurers of the owner/ operator of an oil storage tank field in Arkansas. A gasoline tank exploded during welding activities, causing the death of three individuals and injury to a third. Other defendants were three contractors working with Enterprise on the tank cleaning and modification project. In addition to liability and quantum, the case presented complex legal issues - the tank owner s additional insured status under each contractors policies; whether the coverage afforded extended to the additional insured under the facts of the case; what state s law applied to each contractor s policy and the outcome; the value of loss of life damages under Arkansas law; borrowed servant issues and their impact on insurance policies; interplay of other insurance issues among the tank owner and contractors policies; and the applicability/interpretation of federal regulations to each party. Working with the insured s local counsel, Mr. Gray was instrumental in resolving the issues and effecting a global settlement with his clients contributing about 11% to the multi-million dollar settlement. 3
4 Cases of Note (cont.): New Orleans and Miami Office Join Forces to Establish Precedent in U.S. Maritime Jurisprudence In a case of first impression in the United States, A.T. Skipper Chenault, Guillermo Luis Dominguez, and Michael Harowski successfully won a summary judgment on behalf of a client seeking to enforce the indemnity provisions contained in a BIMCO ocean towage contract. The case involved the towage of the client s dredge pipe from the Bahamas to Jamaica. During the voyage, the tug and tow both sank in the Caribbean Sea, resulting in the death of one crewmember of the tug and injury to another crewmember. The towage was undertaken pursuant to a standard Towage Agreement ( TOWHIRE ), which contains indemnity provisions requiring the Tugowner to indemnify the hirer for any liability due to the crew of the tug and allocating sole responsibility to the Tugowner for any loss or damage sustained by the tug or property onboard the tug. The Tugowner and the tug s crew sought to avoid application of the indemnity provisions to recover over $1 million in damages. They argued that if the tow was unseaworthy, the indemnity provisions would not apply. They also argued that the indemnity provisions are invalid as contrary to U.S. public policy. No U.S. court had previously ruled on the relationship between indemnity provisions and seaworthiness obligations in a towage contract. On March 13, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled in favor of the firm s client, holding that the indemnity and risk allocation provisions of the parties towage contract do not violate public policy and that regardless of fault, seaworthiness is not a condition to the enforcement of the indemnification provisions. 4 Delos Flint and Wade Webster Spearhead Deal for Royal Bank of Scotland New Orleans Partners Dee Flint and Wade Webster spearheaded a $150 Million Dollar loan agreement and Fleet Mortgage between the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Gulfmark Offshore Inc., an NYSE Corporation, with offshore support vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. Also participating with RBS in the loan syndicate were Wells Fargo and J. P. Morgan/Chase. The firm s finance team coordinated their efforts with several law firms to consummate the financing, working with attorneys at Pinsent Masons, LLP in the United Kingdom and multiple Houston firms representing Gulfmark. This caps several recent financings of vessel and fleet operators by the team of Flint and Webster in Joint Venture Successfully Created For Large Sugar Distributors ED&F Man On December 31, 2012, Fowler Rodriguez attorneys Juan E. Serralles and Tom Oppenheimer helped close a complex deal involving a global merchant and distributor of agricultural commodities such as sugar, molasses and coffee. Fowler Rodriguez represented ED&F Man in creating a joint venture entity specifically to refine, package, distribute and sell sugar from facilities located in New Jersey and California. ED&F Man was founded over 200 years ago in London with over 3,000 employees. They do business in more than sixty (60) countries world-wide. ED&F Man also is a leading global supplier of liquid products for feed and non-feed use and they have a vibrant shipping business.
5 Cases of Note: Thomson Pulls a Rabbit out of Hat Probation for One-Million Dollar SBA Fraud Through creative lawyering, New Orleans Partner Peter Thomson secured a substantial victory for a businessman, who had obtained a $1 million disaster loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The FBI claimed that the Firm s client had diverted loan proceeds to other properties and had used over $300,000 of the money to buy a personal yacht. Days after being indicted on charges of mail fraud and theft of government property, the businessman hired Mr. Thomson, who successfully convinced the government that neither the facts nor law supported the indictment s charges against his client. Mr. Thomson negotiated an agreement whereby the businessman would plead guilty to the lesser charge of making a false statement, while agreeing to sell the property collateralizing the original loan in order to return the proceeds to the SBA. Mr. Thomson likewise structured the agreement and guilty plea to reduce the client s sentencing guidelines exposure from many years in prison to between zero and six months with the possibility of probation. Then, at sentencing, the Court agreed to a term of probation for the client and imposed a substantial fine in lieu of ordering him to serve time in federal prison. This was an outstanding outcome for a client who was originally charged with a $1 million mail fraud and a guideline sentence of over five years in prison. Improper Foreclosure Proceedings Settled Luis Llamas successfully settled a residential foreclosure lawsuit filed against one of Fowler Rodriguez s longstanding clients. Foreclosure proceedings had been improperly initiated due to a computer glitch existing between the homeowner s account and the bank s electronic withdrawal system. After moving for mediation, Mr. Llamas obtained a settlement resulting in the bank s withdrawal of its claims for late fees, penalties and attorney s fees. 5 Fowler Rodriguez s Immigration Team - No Criminal Charges for Employing Dozens of Illegal Aliens Immediately after a Louisiana oilfield services company was raided by U.S. Immigration Special Agents, the company s chief officer telephoned Partner Peter Thomson. The company s records had been seized and a number of employees had been arrested by federal agents for being in the United States illegally. Mr. Thomson, who represents clients charged with criminal violations relating to immigration, joined forces with Miami Partner David Peña, an expert in administrative immigration matters. Thomson and Peña conducted an internal investigation, audited the company, and presented a written report to Special Agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As a result of their work, the company was not fined nor was the case referred to the United States Attorney s Office for criminal prosecution of either the company or any of its officers. Success in Asbestos Related Lawsuits Countless companies involved in the offshore industry have been sued by claimants alleging exposure to asbestos found in drilling mud. While the litigation continues in courts throughout Louisiana against numerous defendants, 30 such claims against a Fowler Rodriguez client were recently dismissed. The successful defense was handled by George Fowler, Norman Sullivan and Luis Llamas.
6 Cases of Note (cont.): Summary Judgment Dismissal in Longshoreman Asbestos Case Firm partner Philip Brickman and associate Susan Keller- Garcia obtained a dismissal with prejudice of all claims against a South African financial institution in asbestos Multi-District Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs, the survivors of a longshoreman, filed wrongful death and survivor claims in Louisiana state court against various entities they alleged were responsible for the decedent s alleged asbestos exposure. One of those defendant entitles brought the Firm s client into the litigation as a third-party defendant for the sole purpose of securing federal jurisdiction based on its status as an instrumentality of a foreign government pursuant to the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. After removal of the case to federal court, Brickman and Keller-Garcia successfully sought summary judgment and dismissal with prejudice of all claims against the client. This is the most recent in a string of similar cases Brickman and Keller-Garcia have successfully handled in which all claims against the Firm s client were dismissed with prejudice following a motion for summary judgment or settlement for a nominal amount. Fowler Rodriguez Findings: U.S. Fifth Circuit Clarifies the Point at Which a Maritime Lien is Extinguished By Philip C. Brickman The U.S. Fifth Circuit recently addressed the issue of whether a company that provided fuel to a vessel can apply the payment for the most recent delivery to past due invoices and subsequently arrest the vessel to enforce a maritime lien for nonpayment of the most current invoice. In World Fuel Services, Inc. v. M/V MAGDALENA GREEN, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the District Court s decision to grant a motion for wrongful arrest arising out of enforcement of a maritime lien for necessaries under the Maritime Lien Act. On February 23, 2011, WFS filed a verified complaint, in rem, for the arrest of the MAGDALENA. WFS alleged that SEL had not timely paid for the fuel supplied to the MAGDALENA. Vessel owners then filed a motion to dismiss and vacate the arrest of the MAGDALENA, as well as for damages for wrongful arrest. Under the Federal Maritime Lien Act, a vessel is a distinct entity and, therefore, statutory liable for its own debts. As such, the MAGDALENA could not be held liable for other outstanding debts of SEL. Rather it could only be held liable for its own debt, which was extinguished when SEL made payment for the most recently aquired bunkers. A maritime lien arises when the debt arises, and grants the creditor a right to the arrest the vessel, have it sold, and be repaid the debt from the proceeds. When the debt is repaid and satisfaction is acknowledged, the lien ceases to exist. The Fifth Circuit reinforced this legal premise in its opinion and also narrowed the circumstances where a provider of necessaries can electively apply payments for past due invoices. Depending on the terms of the fueling agreement, a fuel supplier must allocate the payment at the time it is received, not confirm acknowledgement and extinguishment of an outstanding invoice, and reallocate at a later time. 6
7 Fowler Rodriguez Findings (cont.): Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Allows Non-Citizen Children to Stay in U.S. Without Fear of Deportation by Fernando Rojas and Jair Pearson Wealthy Hit With Higher Income and Estate Taxes in 2013 by Wade Webster and Mark Rich In 2012, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which will make Deferred Action available to certain young people who came to the United States as children. This process will allow eligible youth to go to school and work without fear of deportation. Deferred Action is a decision by the Executive Branch not to place an individual in deportation proceedings or not to execute an order of removal. President Obama has chosen to grant Deferred Action to benefit those students who were brought to this country before they turned 16, and have not yet reached their 31st birthday. It does not, however, provide a path to citizenship. It allows young people to seek an education, be lawfully employed, secure valid driver s licenses and have the assurance that they will not be deported until age 31. In August of 2012, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, made forms and instructions available that must be completed to request Deferred Action. The filing fee is $465, and once approved the foreign national will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that may be used to enroll in colleges and universities at the same rates afforded to U.S. residents. It is expected that the process will take 90 days. If you suspect that someone can benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, please contact either Fernando Rojas, an associate attorney practicing immigration in the Miami Office or Jair Pearson, who is a Senior Immigration Paralegal at the Miami Office of Fowler Rodriguez. 7 Social Security is financed by a 12.4% tax on wages up to $113,700, with employers paying half and workers paying the other half. For 2011 and 2012, the share paid by the workers was reduced from 6.2% to 4.2%, but has now been reinstated to 6.2% in This equates to a tax increase of $2,000 for an individual who earns $100,000. Most of the Bush tax cuts were extended for individuals making less than $400,000 and married couples making less than $450,000. However, the top bracket income tax rate has increased from 35% to 39.6% on income above $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples. The wealthy will also be hit with two new taxes under Obamacare, including a 0.9% tax on earnings above $250,000 for couples and an additional 3.8% tax on investment income for the wealthy. The long term capital gains rate will escalate from 15% to 20%. Married couples earning more than $300,000 will see their itemized deductions and personal exemptions phase out. Couples earning more than $422,500 will not be able to take a personal exemption at all. The $5,000,000 estate tax exemption per spouse is now indexed for inflation and will be $5,250,000 for This means that a married couple may structure their estate up to $10,500,000 to pass tax-free to their heirs and legatees. However, everything above this amount will be subject to a tax that has increased from 35% to 40%. The Estate Tax Exemption is in addition to an annual gift tax exclusion estimated to be $14,000 per recipient in 2013.
8 Fowler Rodriguez Findings (cont.): Marine Insurance Pitfalls - Are You Adequately Covered? By Larry DeMarcay and Mat Gray, III For offshore construction and dredging companies, the procurement of proper insurance is of the utmost importance. It is necessary to know the basics of what types of insurance are available as well as what each type of policy covers. Marine insurance can be separated into four categories: hull; protection and indemnity coverage; cargo; and marine liability. Hull policies protect the vessel itself and its machinery and typically cover physical damage, salvage costs, and collision liability also known as a running down clause. Protection and indemnity ( P&I ) policies cover liability of the vessel owner for bodily injury and property damage, and includes collision liability not included in a running down clause of the hull policy and other specified liabilities. While P&I policies insure the vessel owner s incurred liability, it is important to scrutinize the extent of coverage to make an informed decision whether additional coverage is needed. If the insured is not the owner of a vessel but has employees who work on vessels, the employer should consider Maritime Employer s Liability ( MEL ) insurance. Also, if its employees work on both owned and non-owned or operated vessels, the employer may need both P&I and MEL coverage. Alternatively, the basic coverage under the MEL policy may be amended to include coverage of employees and crewmembers on owned or operated watercraft. Marine liability policies may be tailored to address the specific needs of vessel operators. Specialty marine liability policies are available for stevedores, wharfingers, terminal operators, ship repairers, ship builders, charterers, and related to the nature of each industry. 8 Insurers are beginning to offer a Marine General Liability policy. This policy combines aspects of a traditional Commercial General Liability policy with other coverage specific to the marine industry being added, in part, by deleting certain standard CGL exclusions. While these policies address the unique needs of vessel operators, it is important to ensure that the coverage meets your expectations. A Marine General Liability policy may look and feel like it provides typical Commercial General Liability coverage with deletion of specific exclusions, but contains its own limitations on the scope of coverage that must be considered. As the Courts have been opening the door to awards of punitive damages in certain admiralty cases, companies should review their liability policies to determine whether punitive damages are excluded. Consider purchasing liability insurance coverage that does not exclude coverage for punitive damage awards. Also, you may be able to buy back coverage for additional premium. The prudent vessel owner may consider excess and umbrella insurance policies. Excess policies provide coverage over the limits of an underlying policy. Once the primary coverage is exhausted, an excess insurance policy provides coverage. Umbrella policies provide both excess coverage and supplemental primary coverage, usually subject to a selfinsured retention. Offshore construction contractors should talk to their insurance broker about a builder s risk policy. Builder s risk policies provide coverage for physical damage to the structure and include coverage of the materials to be used in the construction once in route to the construction location.
9 Fowler Rodriguez Findings (cont.): New Mining Legislation and Investment Opportunities in Colombia By Luis Enrique Cuervo Colombia is rich in coal, gold and copper and is known for the largest and most beautiful emeralds. Those resources have attracted investment of important foreign companies such as Drummond, Glencore, Cemex, BHP Billinton and Anglo American Coal. Unlike the oil and gas industry in which the State is a significant participant, mining activities in Colombia are performed entirely by private parties. Following on the example of the oil and gas industry with the creation of the National Hydrocarbon Agency (Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos), the Colombian government recently established the National Mining Agency (Agencia Nacional de Minería). As it is frequent in Colombia, legislation originates in extraordinary legislative powers granted to the President by Congress. Thus, acting under extraordinary legislative powers the President issued Decree 4134 of 2011, whereby the National Mining Agency was established. Like the National Hydrocarbon Agency, the National Mining Agency (NMA) is an independent administrative agency under the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The main purpose of the NMA is to sustainably manage Colombia s mineral resources, excluding hydrocarbons, and establish a centralized system of mineral titles and records. Until now the administration of Colombia s mining resources was handled by INGEOMINAS. Powers previously conferred to INGEOMINAS were distributed between the NMA, the Servicio Geológico Colombiano (Colombian Geologic Service) and a deputy mining Minister. Significant mining activities have been performed in Colombia without formal mining titles or contracts. explore and exploit state owned mining resources in Colombia, must request it from the NMA. The NMA is responsible for promoting mining exploration and exploitation in Colombia and will determine whether certain areas are to be reserved for exploitation through concession contracts. The NMA is preparing the terms and conditions of the first tender to be conducted in 2013 that will award mining exploration and exploitation areas of approximately 20 million acres to private investors. The time is ripe to invest in Colombian mineral resources. Could Your Organization Withstand an ICE Raid? By J. David Peña Businesses can face substantial criminal and civil penalties after an investigation of their employees if raided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Be prepared to respond to civil or criminal investigation and know what documents enforcement agencies are entitled to review with or without a subpoena or search warrant. Also, know your rights when it comes to enforcement agencies being able to enter your facility, interview your employees or even shut down your facility. We urge all clients to review their employment verification policies immediately and to develop a compliance and emergency response program addressing how to respond to enforcement agencies requests for information and criminal subpoenas and enforcement actions. For more information call J. David Peña and his associates in the Immigration Division of Fowler Rodriguez in the Miami office. Now, investors interested in obtaining a license to 9
10 Mergers and Hires: J. David Peña Partner J. David Peña joined Fowler Rodriguez in July of 2012 as a partner in the Miami Office. Mr. Peña concentrates his practice on representing foreign individuals, large and small corporations seeking to immigrate or start business ventures in the United States. His experience includes immigration and nationality law, general corporate law, banking, real estate, investment and entertainment law. Mr. Peña formerly served as special legal counsel to the Florida International Affairs Commission, as legal counsel to the Mexican and Colombian Embassies in Washington, D.C. and as legal counsel to the Mexican Consulate in Miami. He also has experience representing the United States Government, both in Washington, D.C. and overseas, with foreign governments and with international organizations. Mr. Peña devotes a substantial amount of his time to immigration and naturalization law. He and his staff are experienced in proceedings before U.S. Citizenship and Immigraion Service, USCIS, formally known as the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, I.N.S., the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of State. Mr. Peña s expertise includes the preparation and presentation of applications for visas at U.S. Consulates abroad, visa petitions, and employment-based visas. In recent years, Mr. Peña obtained significant experience with the internal procedures required by the USCIS for establishing an Employer Sanction Program and has extensive experience putting companies in compliance with the current immigration/employment regulations, as well as negotiating on behalf of corporations with the USCIS/ICE on corporate violations. He also represents individuals in deportation proceedings. An accomplished speaker, he has lectured at various immigration and real estate seminars in the United States and throughout South America. He was honored in by being named to the Hispanic Business Magazine s list of The Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States. Mr. Peña has served as guest lecturer at The University of Wisconsin s Summer Law Program and Universidad Sergio Arbolado - Bogatá, Colombia. Mr. Peña is fluent in both English and Spanish. 10 Fernando Rojas Associate Fernando Rojas joined Fowler Rodriguez in July of 2012 as an associate in the Miami office. Mr. Rojas represents clients primarily in employment based immigrant and non-immigrant petitions such as H1-B s, L-1 s, E-2 s, EB-1 s, as well as I-9 compliance, EB-5 investor visas, family based petitions and citizenship and asylum cases. Mr. Rojas has also represented immigrants in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals primarily in the areas of asylum, criminal waivers and Cuban Adjustments. Mr. Rojas is a 1992 graduate of Brown University where he attained his B.A. in International Relations. From 1992 to 1996, he was a Middle School and High School teacher in Providence, Rhode Island. Mr. Rojas graduated from Northwestern University School of Law in 1999, where he was awarded the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship and was an Associate Comment and Note Editor of the Law Review. Mr. Rojas was named one of Minnesota s Up and Coming Attorneys in Mr. Rojas is fluent in both English and Spanish. Jacques P. DeGruy Associate Jacques P. DeGruy joined the New Orleans office of Fowler Rodriguez in July of Mr. DeGruy graduated from Loyola Law School in 2004, and immediately began a practice focusing on litigation, primarily in the areas of admiralty & maritime law, general insurance defense and asbestos defense. He has extensive experience defending cases from the investigation stage all the way through trial, with favorable results in both state and federal courts and on behalf of a wide array of clients from large insurance companies to mom & pop vessel operators. He also has extensive experience in negotiating charter agreements, master service agreements and other contracts on behalf of his clients to insure that their interests and livelihoods are protected in the event of an accident, injury or other disaster. Jacques is admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit, the United States District Courts for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of Louisiana and all Louisiana state courts. He is also an active member in several trade organizations, including the Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting Association, Mariners Club and Offshore Marine Service Association, the New Orleans Bar Association, and Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel. He is also recognized for speaking at seminars on issues related to maritime law and trial practice. Outside of the office, Jacques enjoys fishing, traveling, reading and spending time with his wife and three daughters.
11 Mergers and Hires: Michael Broussard Of Counsel Michael Broussard joined Fowler Rodriguez in July of 2012 of counsel in the Gulfport office. Mr. Broussard earned his B.A. in economics as a cum laude graduate from the University of Mississippi with a minor in accounting. Mr. Broussard was the owner of the largest independent privately held seafood company located in the State Port of Gulfport until shortly before it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Broussard is currently a partner in multiple area business ventures, serves as a board member and treasurer for a local non-profit organization dedicated to ongoing hurricane recovery efforts, and donates his time as an English teacher to the local immigrant community. Mr. Broussard has served on the interim committee for reformation of the Gulf Coast Mortgage Bankers Association, was a charter member of his hometown Exchange, serving as chairperson for the Committee on Americanism, and serves other fraternal and charitable organizations such as the Joppa Shrine and Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. After graduating from Tulane School of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana with a certificate in Admiralty and Maritime Law, Mr. Broussard served as a closing agent for the Mississippi Development Authority, after which he began building a successful commercial and residential real estate firm while teaching real estate law for the National Association of Legal Assistants. After serving as in house counsel for a nationally known seafood processor, Mr. Broussard has dedicated his practice to immigration law. Mr. Broussard also practices in the areas of admiralty and maritime law, business law, as well as commercial and residential real estate law. Mr. Broussard is a member of the Mississippi Bar, Mississippi Young Lawyers Division, Southern and Northern Mississippi District Courts as well as the Supreme Court of Mississippi. Cristina Casabianca Associate Cristina Casabianca joined the Miami office of Fowler Rodriguez in July of Ms. Casabianca has experience with everything from employment based visa petitions, including EB- 1 s, H-1B s, L-1A s, E s, O-1 s and PERM, to family based immigrant visa petitions and naturalizations. She is also familiar with various aspects of deportation and asylum before the immigration courts. Ms. Casabianca received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and International Relations from Oglethorpe University, and earned her Juris Doctor degree from American University, Washington College of Law. After graduating from law school, Ms. Casabianca was chosen as an Equal Justice Works Fellow to provide legal assistance to immigrant domestic violence, child abuse and victims of other violent crimes in obtaining lawful immigration status in a project that partnered Legal Aid Service of Broward County with Women In Distress. Ms. Casabianca is fluent in both English and Spanish. 11 Appointments: W. Jacob Gardner, Jr. was elected by the organization s members as the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute (SEALI) Port Director for New Orleans. The SEALI board of directors consists of the 4 executive board members (Pres, VP, Sec. and Treasurer), and the Port Directors from port cities throughout the southeast such as New Orleans, Houston, Mobile, etc. Francis X. Sexton was recently elected to another three year term on the Board of Trustees of History Miami, formerly the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Caitlin Byars was unanimously granted membership into the St. Thomas More Inn of Court in November of The members are dedicated to the advancement and study of the practice of law, with a heightened exchange of professional ideals and standards with the English Inns of Court. Susan Keller-Garcia was appointed to the Federal Bar Association s Young Lawyers Division Board of Directors Cristi Chauvin was selected co-chair of the Transportation, Trade and Logistics Subcommittee for New Orleans Business Alliance Strategic Plan along with Greg Rusovich. She was also reappointed to serve on the Board of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and the Board of the World Trade Center s Government Affairs Committee. Miami Partner, Mary Hoelle, has been appointed Chair of Florida International University s President s Council board. Ms. Hoelle s term commences June She will also serve as an ex officio member of the University s Foundation Board. The President s Council is comprised of business and civic leaders who are advocates for the University in the community working to strengthen one of the most vital resources of the South Florida infrastructure.
12 Spotlight On: Michael W. McCoy Managing Partner, Houston Something not everyone knows about you? I used to be a very passionate golfer; I lettered two years in high school and played a ton of client, recreational, and charity golf tournaments. Favorite place to travel? My family has been to the Caymans 20 times in 22 years, it is our favorite place in the world. What do you mostly practice and how long have you been practicing with this group? I have been an Insurance lawyer my whole 34-year career; I have had my own book of business for essentially 25 years, and brought it to this firm, and built my team up in What did you dress as for the Fowler Rodriguez Halloween Costume party this year? My team, which is all female except me, dressed as beauty contestants (we called ourselves scholarship winners ) and I was the emcee; it was a blast. Do you have a favorite quote or saying? Very shop-worn, but, here goes: it is what it is. Have you met anyone interesting lately? Yes, I met Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, by happenstance last year. My son and I were at a hotel in Dallas and Rice walked by on her way downstairs; she stopped, introduced herself and her secret service agents and signed her book for us! Jen Larson Legal Secretary, New Orleans What is your job title? Legal Secretary. But I prefer Supreme Goddess of the Universe. Where were you born? I was hatched in a small petri dish lab tested/mother approved. I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. What city do you live in now? What do you love about the city you live in? I live in downtown New Orleans, the most fun city on planet Earth! My favorite things about New Orleans are: the food, the culture, the music. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I love to travel and want to spend my life seeing the world with my husband. I love listening to U2 s music and I also enjoy spending time with my friends. What is something most people don t know about you? I met my husband, Isaac, the love of my life, on eharmony. The best money I ever spent. Have you met anyone interesting lately? In August, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg filmed scenes from an upcoming movie in my apartment (see photo below of Denzel s recent visit at our place). It is mindblowing to have an Oscar winner in your living room sitting on your sofa. 12
13 Spotlight On: Delos Dee Flint Partner, New Orleans Where were you born and where did you grow up? I was born in Santiago, Cuba as my Dad worked for the U.S. Government. However, when things started to get hot, we moved to New Orleans as he had met people from Freeport Sulfur Company in Cuba and they offered him a job. I went to high school in Covington and consider that my hometown. What do you love about the city you live in? New Orleans has a funky charm, major sports teams and a lot of night life. My favorite things to do primarily involve my kids and have involved high school athletics and in particular, soccer, track and field and swimming. What s something people don t know about you? I am double jointed and I taught ballroom dancing when I was in eighth grade. Do you have any interesting plans for your future? I am looking forward to following my daughter, Caitlin, during her four years at my Alma Mater, Dartmouth. How long have you been practicing with this group? Together with George Fowler, I founded Fowler Rodriguez back in Have you participated in any interesting cases or gotten any awards/publications? Approximately every four years I give a speech for the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute. I am also published in the University of San Francisco Law Review and have spoken 3 times at the Louisiana Bar Association at their annual admiralty seminar. With regard to cases, I tried a very interesting Jones Act case involving serious hand injuries to an individual. Plaintiff wanted $3 Million dollars in damages and the jury found in favor of defendant. It was recently upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 13 Have you volunteered, performed any community service, or been to any fundraisers? I actively coach Little League baseball, Biddy Basketball and soccer and actually coached Peyton Manning when he was 12 years old. I am currently a member of the Louisiana Soccer Association Board of Directors and have previously been active with the United Way, the Boys and Girls Clubs of New Orleans and Lafreniere Soccer Association. I also have served as a Port Director for the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute and I am a Chairman for a sub-committee for Maritime Law Association. What was your best costume for the Fowler Rodriguez Halloween Costume party? What did you think the all-time best costume was? My best costume was coming as Heath Ledger s, the Joker, I won some nominal award, finishing second to Elizabeth Mills. The all time best costume in New Orleans was Elizabeth Mills when she was a cemetery statue. What is your favorite memory at Fowler Rodriguez? Primarily, the Christmas parties. The first one after we started the firm and probably the Christmas in 2010, as it struck me how much we have grown. Do you have any funny stories about co-workers or experiences on the job? Numerous. Going to a night club in New York City with George Fowler where we were dressed in suits and everyone else looked like they were from the Road Warrior. The patrons thought we were from the FBI. Who is your favorite sports team and why? Professionally, the Saints and with respect to college sports, Dartmouth College and LSU. Do you have anything else to add? A funny story? With a little bit of seasoning, you realize that life is made up of the day to day interactions with your co-workers and your clients. I have been blessed to work for many people who were bright and good natured. In doing so, I have gotten to travel to exotic places and meet a lot of interesting people. I would close by saying that life is just a continual learning experience.
14 Spotlight On: Jon Wise Partner, Houston & New Orleans What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Reading, playing guitar, hiking/birding and tennis What is something most people don t know about you? That I played the violin in the New Orleans Youth Symphony Any awards/publications/distinctions/committees? Recently became a proctor in admiralty with the Maritime Law Association of the United States How long have you been practicing with this group? 23 years What is your favorite office activity and why? This year it was the Houston Thanksgiving lunchthe food was great! What is your favorite memory at Fowler Rodriguez? Being hired on Christmas Eve 1989, and then having to drive home five hours in a freak snowstorm back home to Metairie. I was so thrilled to get to work for this firm that the traffic disaster around me didn t bother me a bit. Rhonda M. Emerson Accounting Manager, Houston Where were you born and where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Houston. I lived in the same house until 2 weeks before I got married. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Hobbies? I enjoy spending time with my growing family we are up to 8 grandchildren now. I also read, sew, workout, and last but not least.. Run! What is something most people don t know about you? After I got married and had children, I went to college for 9 years, at night, to get my BBA, with an Accounting minor, while I worked full time, and graduated magna cum laude! Do you have any interesting plans for your future? I ve been running marathons for 17 years, at the beginning of 2011 I decided to run a marathon in every state. Today I have completed 33 states, and plan to be finished with this venture at the end of What is your favorite office activity and why? Our Christmas party. We leave the office, enjoy a relaxing meal, and exchange silly gifts! It s fun and always lots of laughs. Do you have a favorite quote or saying? And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. I think Scott Fitzgerald was speaking for his generation of Americans in that sentence, but it resonates with me in some personal way even now. What do you like about working at Fowler Rodriguez? The challenging cases I have had the opportunity to work on and the quality of lawyering from my fellow partners. What is your best/worst attribute? Working too late most evenings. 14 If you could meet anyone from any era who would it be? My grandfathers. Both had already passed away before I was born and I never knew what having a grandfather was like. Do you have a favorite quote or saying? I believe everything happens for a reason, and things will always work out! What do you like about working at Fowler Rodriguez? There is never a dull moment! I love the work that I do, and the people I work with, which in my case it is almost everyone in the firm. Everyone is pleasant!
15 Fowler Rodriguez Community Outreach: New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation s Azucar Ball 23 years ago, George Fowler helped found the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation. This year, he was nominated President of the board and his daughter, Cristi Chauvin, co-chaired their primary fundraiser, the Azucar Ball. Virtually all the money collected at the Azucar Ball is used for high school scholarships awarded to Hispanic students. George J. Fowler, III, 2013 President of New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation announces Galvez Cup winner, Dr. Patrick J. Quinlan of Ochsner Hospital. Michele & Steve Gleason (of the Saints) were crowned King and Queen of the Azucar Ball. Victoria White Baudier, Carmen and Arnie Perez, Cristi Chauvin Kathy & Marty Quist and Christina & John Teague Betty & Norman Sullivan (FR), Jim & Susie McCulloch, George Fowler (FR) Ana Gershanik, Victoria White Baudier, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Cristi Fowler Chauvin 15
16 Fowler Rodriguez Community Outreach: Good Shepherd School Gala American Heart Association George J. Fowler, III, Alejandro Galavis, Cristina Fowler, Leslie Hellmers, Cristi Chauvin, George J. Fowler, IV, Tara Kunkel Bergaz, Jennifer L. Dippel, Jean Paul Perrilliat, Andrew Chaplain, Patrick Burke, Jennifer Fowler, Anne Williams Young Leadership Council Gala Fowler Rodriguez sponsored the A.H.A. s Heart and Soul Gala which raises funds to fight heart disease and stroke. JT Robinson (Twin Shores Landscape), True Picou (Chenevert Architects), Michael Angle (GiftMeo Inc.), Sara Weber (BP), Catlin Byars (FR) and Zach Jones (Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer, LLC.). Junior League of New Orleans Mike & Christy Harowski Audubon Nature Institute Robert and Lauren Boyce, Ellen Baker and Daniel Lichtl (FR Partner) Magic in the Moonlight Lauren McCulloch (FR) & Holly Reid attend Zoo to Do, a gala which raises funds to support New Orleans s Audubon Zoo, Aquarium, and Park. 16 Leander Perez, Alejandro Galavis, Cristi Chauvin, Michelle Galavis, Victoria White Baudier, Christian Chauvin and Beau Baudier attended Magic in the Moonlight, a fundraiser of the New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation for the benefit of City Park. Fowler Rodriguez attorney Eugene Preaus is President of the Board.
17 Fowler Rodriguez Community Outreach: New Orleans Bar and Grill Cook Off Hope Haven Childrens Services Fundraiser Caitlin Byars and Shannon Billingsley participate in a cook-off competition against several other New Orleans law firms. John A. Scialdone Fowler Rodriguez s Houston Baseball Team Louisiana Appleseed Tim Strickland s son Evan getting ready to bat. The firm sponsored the Bayside Little League Grasshoppers Christy and Michael Harowski (FR), Adam Couch and Lauren McCulloch (FR) attended the Fowler Rodriguez sponsored Gala which raised funds to advance social justice and universal education. Camillus House for the Homeless in Miami Hogs for a Cause Clara & Mario del Valle and Cristina & George J. Fowler, III (Host Committee Sponsors) at Camillus House s 13th annual Hope For All Gala which raises money for homeless in Miami. Fowler serves as Trustee of Camillus house (photo courtesy of Miami Herald). 17 Fowler Rodriguez attorney Luis Llamas with the Hogs for a Cause trophy. Hogs for a Cause supports breast cancer research.
18 Fowler Rodriguez Attorneys Around Town: Two Conferences Connect New Orleans and Latin America The Conference on the Caribbean and Central America This year s annual conference on the Caribbean and Central America took place at New Orleans Hotel Intercontinental. George Fowler acted as moderator for a panel on antiquated customs systems and rules that give rise to inefficiencies and corruption. He also attended the Latin America Connection Conference with Mary Landrieu. Fowler s main goal was to urge Latin American businesses to invest in New Orleans because of cultural similarities. He proposed marketing New Orleans in targeted areas (like airports) in the countries that have recently experienced an economic boom. J. David Peña (FR), Mike Strain (Commisioner of Agriculture and Forestry of Louisiana), George J. Fowler, III (FR), and Bobby C. Brannon (Vice President and Treasurer of Ochsner). The Latin America Connection Conference with Mary Landrieu Fausto Arimany (GSC Systems Guatemala), Michael Valentino (Owner, Hotel Management of New Orleans, LLC), Linely Arimany, George J. Fowler, III, Senator Mary Landrieu, Ana Clarisa Villacorta C. (Asociacion de Productores Independientes de Banano). George J. Fowler, III (FR), Jose Suquet (Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Pan American Life), Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and John Kelly (Chairman Emeritus of Pan American Life). Jose Quirce (Office of the Ministry of Foreign Trade in Washington of Costa Rica), John Hyatt (VP, The Irwin Brown Company), George J. Fowler, III (FR), Kevin Sullivan (Director of Regional Economic Policy, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State), and Abraham Bennaton 18 (Vice President, National Industry Association of Honduras).
19 Fowler Rodriguez Attorneys Around Town: FR Hosts GNOBFA After Hours Event Luis Llamas Meets with George P. Bush Jon Wise and John Garner at Fowler Rodriguez s Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting afterhours party. Higman Barge Lines, Inc. Christening George P. Bush and Luis Llamas (FR) at Maverick Conference. American Choppers Edward F. LeBreton (FR) and Preston Shuford (Vice President of Higman Barge Lines) at the christening by Higman Barge Lines, Inc., of the Tug Point Mallard and the Tug Guadalupe. Marquette Transportation Picnic Fowler Rodriguez attorney J. David Peña (right) facilitated his Venezuelan client Boris Duran (left) get an EB5 green card through Duran s purchase of a major interest in the trademark of Orange County Choppers. They are pictured here with Paul Sr. (center), the star of AMERICAN CHOPPERS at the grand opening of the 1st Orange County Choppers restaurant at the OCC headquarters in Newberg, NY. Paul Sr. helped finance the restaurant with this EB5 money. Delos Flint and Cyndi Featherston (Hercules) John Garner and John Scialdone Delos Flint and Cyndi Featherston (Hercules) 19
20 Fowler Rodriguez Proudly Supports: Metropolitan Crime Commission World Trade Center New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu speaks out against crime. Susan Keller-Garcia (FR), Lourdes Caposso Fernandes, the Managing Parter from law firm in Luanda, Angola, Jacob Gardner (FR). Larry DeMarcay, Police Superintendant Ronal Serpas, Peter Thomson, George J. Fowler, III, Delos E. Flint, Jr., Susan Keller- Garcia, and Cristina Fowler attended the Fowler Rodriguez sponsored lunch. Mullady Voelker, Cristi Chauvin, Christian Chauvin, Norman C. Sullivan, Jr., Jacques P. DeGruy, Edward F. LeBreton, III, Jacob Gardner, and Mat M. Gray, III attended the Fowler Rodriguez sponsored lunch where the WTC gave Port Director Gary LaGrange the Bertel Award. Fowler Rodriguez attorney Peter Thomson, who specializes in criminal law, speaks with Rafael Goyenech, the President of the MCC from 1989 to present and George J. Fowler, III, who sits on the MCC board. The MCC was founded over 50 years ago to actively fight crime and corruption in New Orleans. Fowler Rodriguez attorney Cristi Chauvin (far left) sits on the Board of the World Trade Center s Committee of Government Affairs. 20