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On October 29 2012 Superstorm Sandy caused severe damage to many areas on the eastern seaboard. As the Sandy waters started to recede thousands of homeowners began the process of piecing their lives back together and the disaster public service initiative of the Touro Law Center began. Our initial organization TLC-HEART which provided referrals assistance and legal advice for local residents and small businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy has now evolved into a full service Disaster Relief Clinic offering a wide range of pro bono legal services to Sandy survivors. Our mission at the Disaster Relief Clinic is to assist Sandy- affected New York households that are mainly in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. We focus our intakes on homeowners that are seniors working families and households that are financially burdened as a result of Sandy. The Clinic handles Sandy-related disputes with insurance companies individuals seeking public benefits or appealing adverse benefits determinations home-owners contracting with or in disputes with general contractors and homeowners who must engage in real property loss mitigation such as a mortgage modification or a short sale to avoid foreclosure. In June 2013 Governor Cuomo created New York Rising a program that set out to centralize recovery and rebuilding efforts in impacted areas of New York affected by Hurricane Irene Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy. Unfortunately New York Rising had a large turnover of its staff. Some of its applicants had documents misplaced and awards miscalculated. A number of New York Rising applicants turned to the clinic for assistance particularly in obtaining grants on hardship applications to move homeowners in the acquisition program and also to clarify reduce the Duplication of Benefits analysis. Systemically we provided the proposal to deduct the untaken portion of Small Business Administration Loans from the Duplication of Benefits Analysis allowing homeowners to keep thousands of dollars of grant money. By January 2014 there was evidence of widespread flood insurance underpayments which resulted in flood insurance lawsuits being filed in the Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York. We remain the only non-profit legal services provider that filed flood insurance lawsuits and to date have successfully settled cases for our clients netting over 500000. By October of 2014 two years post-Sandy many individuals who had received aid during Sandy began to receive notices from the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA asking for the money to be returned but in almost all cases this money had already been spent. When our clients receive a FEMA recoupment letter we are able to appeal the recoupment by requesting an oral hearing with FEMA and submitting documentation in our clients defense of the recoupment thereby having the recoupment terminated. We have been able to successfully appeal these debts and have also raised awareness of the many issues surrounding FEMAs claw-back process in the media. To date the Clinic has successfully appealed 50480 worth of debt. In the wake of allegations of widespread fraud on the part of flood insurance carriers and engineering companies hired to inspect homes in May 2015 FEMA agreed to reopen approximately 142000 claims for flood insurance proceeds. This review process has substantiated those allegation of fraud on the part of the insurance carriers revealing damage adjustment reports were deliberately altered resulting in underpayments and denials for thousands of homeowners. To date the Clinic has taken on over fifty cases for legal representation throughout the review process and continues to receive intakes daily. While we have many more success stories to share our work is far from over. As time continues to move forward and recovery continues to advance the Clinic will continue to evolve and address those needs of our local community. In the last three years since Sandy the Clinic is proud to have spoken with over 4000 households in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and represented over 1000 households in full or limited scope representation netting over 1184646 for our clients. T O U R O C O L L E G E J A C O B D . F U C H S B E R G L A W C E N T E R NEWSLETTER FALL 2015 Clinical Programs Superstorm Sandy A Storm That Changed New York Forever By Melissa H. Luckman Practitioner-in-Residence of the Disaster Relief Clinic and Daniel Strafer Staff Attorney of the Disaster Relief Clinic CLINICAL PROGRAMS NEWSLETTER FALL 2015 The Senior Citizens Law Program housed at Touro Law Center is a tremendous resource for the aging community on Long Island. Denise Marzano-Doty the Senior Attorney for the program explains that the program represents a population rather than just a particular area of law. As a result the program handles a wide array of cases ranging from Medicaid applications durable powers of attorney living wills landlord-tenant issues credit card debts doctors bills social security health care proxies and pooled trusts. The program has been housed in the Clinical Programs office for the last five years and handles roughly 2000 cases per year among the three female staff members Denise Marzano-Doty Senior Attorney Michelle Robinson Staff Attorney and Judith W. Lespinasse ParalegalGerontologist. These three have been tremendous advocates for the aging community in Suffolk County by providing community education programs to seniors caregivers and others in the field. The program further assists in training the Ombudsmen through the Family Service League a volunteer advocacy program for the elderly living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities across Long Island. The program is very committed to its clients and to getting the best results for them. When I asked Judith how the clients feel after a case is finished she pointed me to the numerous thank you cards on her office shelf. She reported that the clients are often coming to the program worried and leaving feeling relieved thankful and grateful that they had someone to talk to and listen to them about their struggles. Many of the clients do not have family support and the program is one of their only resources. Judith Denise and Michelle often visit the clients at home in nursing homes or in hospitals to assist with Medicaid applications living wills health care proxies and powers of attorney. Judith also speaks to clients caregivers on Alzheimers disease when they have questions about how to care for their parent or spouse. Michelle reported that she often attends court on behalf of her clients and attends senior events at the Veterans Administration libraries and senior- groups to promote the program. She interned in the Senior Citizens Law Program during law school at Touro and in 2014 became the staff attorney for the program. The program is federally funded through Suffolk County and the NY State Office for the Aging. The program has only two requirements anyone seeking assistance must be 60 years or older and must reside in Suffolk County. There is no income requirement however Denise explained that the program often focuses on needylow income residents. The program strives to keep as many seniors as possible in their homes. This trio is the Charlies Angels for the aging population across Long Island directly impacting the lives of many seniors through advocacy education and their desire to make a difference. Senior Citizens Law Program Charlies Angels for the Aging By Rachel Kerremans Swearing in Ceremony Fall 2015 Clinical Programs Student Spotlights Highlighting the experiences of Touro Law Clinical Programs Students I am a student intern in the Disaster Relief Clinic working to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy. We help residents of Nassau and Suffolk Counties whose homes were damaged or destroyed apply for New York Rising benefits complete the FEMA Review process and settle contractor and insurance disputes among other legal issues related to Hurricane Sandy. I have had many opportunities in the clinic from working with clients from their initial intakes from our hotline to reviewing paperwork for FEMA review. I have also done research on proof for primary residency requirements in relation to New York Rising. One of the most interesting experiences in the Clinic is responding to our hotline messages I hear all different stories of how differently the disaster affected clients depending on their geographical area. Working in the Disaster Relief Clinic has given me the opportunity to work on several different aspects of a case and work in different fields of law ranging from administrative law to real property. I would highly recommend working in the Disaster Relief Clinic because it not only gives you first-hand exposure to several different areas of law but it gives you the opportunity to work with clients from the beginning to the end of their case. In the Criminal Defense Clinic I have the privilege of working at Brooklyn Defenders Services BDS with experienced trial attorneys and new associates to help indignant clients in the criminal justice system. As an Intern I interview clients of all backgrounds in jail to help my supervising attorney prepare for arraignments desk appearance tickets and misdemeanor cases. I also have the privilege to watch multiple trials per week including murder trials. The combination of practicing and observing is an invaluable experience because all the attorneys take time to answer questions and teach skills necessary to be a successful criminal defense attorney. The lessons learned in the Criminal Defense Clinic are limitless and have given me confidence that I will be able to achieve the greatest outcome available for my future clients. I joined the Mortgage and Foreclosure Clinic at Touro Law Center with the objective of gaining practical experience with transactional law. After all of my externships with law firms I still felt as though I was lacking in skills and I want to be as prepared as possible for practicing law on my own after graduation. Under the guidance of supervising attorney Joan Clay I have gotten much more than I expected during my time serving clients in foreclosure proceedings. I have the responsibility of handling several cases at a time where the consequence of failure is extremeeviction for my clients families. Besides learning the skills necessary to navigate foreclosure actions the Clinic has instilled a newfound level of confidence in me through interacting with clients and managing their expectations speaking with opposing counsel and learning mechanisms to be more efficient in the practice of law. I will be opening a solo practice after graduation and I now plan to include foreclosure proceedings as a part of my expertise due to the superb training I have received. MaryKate Brigham Disaster Relief Clinic Igor Stolyar Criminal Defense Clinic Waldy Pierre Mortgage and Foreclosure Clinic Therecentsurgeofimmigrantsparticularly immigrantchildrenfromCentralAmericahas increasedtheneedforlegalservicesforthesenew arrivals.AsaresultTouroLawCenterformed theImmigrationLawClinicfundedthrough grantsanddedicatedtoservingnewlyarrived immigrantsparticularlychildrenarriving fromCentralAmerica.Thesechildrenareoften fleeingpersecutionabuseorneglectintheir homecountriesandcomprisethemajorityofthe ImmigrationClinicsclients. Thesechildrenoftenfaceanumberofdifficulties whiletravelingtotheUnitedStates.Theymaybe exploitedbycriminalsorhumantraffickersface coldhungerlonelinessandsleeplessnightsand oftenhaveonlydistantrelationshipswiththosewho awaittheirarrivalintheUnitedStates.Manytimes theyarriveindebttothecoyoteswhoarranged theirtravelandreunitewithfamilymembersbarely knowntothem.Parentsandtheirchildrenface a difficult choice risk the dangers of the journey to the United States or remain in a country wrecked by the prevalence of violence from organized criminals and governments that have been unable to control the delinquency. When they choose to travel to the United States and the United States government then seeks to return them home they need a lawyer to protect their interests that is where the Immigration Law Clinic at Touro Law Center can step in. Michelle Caldera-Kopf Practitioner-in- Residence of the Immigration Law Clinic explained that the Clinic seeks to help its clients fight their legal battle to secure the protection of the United States while also adapting to new families and surroundings. The Clinic represents children in removal proceedings where a government adversary seeks to convince a judge that the child should be deported from the United States while the Clinic tries to prevent their removal by demonstrating that they are eligible under the law for immigration benefits. The two most common forms of relief are Special Immigrant Juvenile Status which involves a petition filed in Family Court and asylum. Students may have the opportunity to engage in an adversarial hearing in Immigration Court where the Clinics client will bear the burden of persuasion. To win asylum the Clinic must demonstrate that the client has a well-founded fear of persecution. This fear of persecution must be based on race religion nationality political opinion or membership in a particular social group. If successful the child cannot be removed from the United States. Additionally after two years individuals granted asylum are eligible to apply for permanent residence. Alternatively some of the clients our Clinics students represent seek Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Clinic students prepare and file a petition in Family Court and seek the courts factual finding that the childs best interest is served by remaining in the United States because of abuse neglect or abandonment by one or both parents in the home country. Students argue and present testimony on behalf of their clients before the Family Court. If successful in Family Court the student representative will then file applications for lawful permanent residence with immigration officials in the United States. TheClinicrecentlyachievedsuccessforbrothers ages11and14whoweregrantedasylum.With thehelpoffirstyearstudentPabloLopezwho translatedforthecasetheboyswereabletoshow thattheirunclesgangdemandedthattheirfamily turnthemovertothegangaftertheirunclewas killedbyarivalgang. Ms. Caldera-Kopf also described another memorable case where a client was turning 21 after which the Family Court loses jurisdiction over the child. Due to the Clinics efforts and just in the nick of time a day before her 21st birthday her petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status was approved. Ms. Caldera described the feeling of accomplishment and relief like a huge weight has been lifted from her shoulders when a client is granted a permanent residence or asylum. Students enrolled in the Immigration Law Clinic share that feeling and gain the confidence of experience by working alongside Ms. Caldera and Clinic Director William Brooks to protect their clients. While interning in the Bankruptcy Clinic I am fortunate enough to experience and participate in the entire process of helping a client get a fresh new start in their financial life from start to finish. Throughout this process I have shared many emotional moments with my clients that have greatly impacted me as an aspiring attorney. In many instances a prospective Chapter 7 bankruptcy client comes to the clinic distressed and sad. At the start of the bankruptcy petition getting to the legal issues or the relevant facts often is not the priority I found that initially listening to the clients stories and exhibiting compassion to the clients is the most important aspect of my legal representation. Most of my clients are filing bankruptcy due to some factors that they do not have control over for example medical conditions that are not covered by the health insurance a divorce or loss of employment. The most satisfying and rewarding feeling is when I am able to help a client discharge all of their consumer debts and medical bills. This allows them to get a brand new start with their life. It is tremendously rewarding when I see the relief and hope resonating through their eyes. Weitian Lee Bankruptcy Clinic The Immigration Law Clinic Providing a New Life for Those Facing Strife By Rachel Kerremans CLINICAL PROGRAMS NEWSLETTER FALL 2015 The Law Center hosted a meeting of the Suffolk County Legislatures Veterans and Seniors Committee on Thursday September 24 2015. The meeting arranged by committee chair Suffolk County Legislator and Law Center adjunct professor Steve Stern was part of a day- long program organized by the Veterans and Servicemembers Rights Clinic for groups and agencies providing legal services to veterans in Nassau and Suffolk in an effort to identify and address unmet needs and create a comprehensive directory of services. The committee has jurisdiction over the Countys Office for the Aging and Veterans Service Agency and considers local laws and policies relating to senior citizens and veterans. Monday August 31 2015 - The Suffolk County Veterans Treatment Court VTC enables veterans charged with relatively minor non-violent offenses to enter into diversion programs involving appropriate treatment in order to qualify for reduced or dismissed charges. The peer-to-peer mentors all combat veterans and members of the Suffolk County Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America are an essential part of the therapeutic work of the VTC assisting justice-involved veterans in following their treatment plans and readjusting to the community. Law Center Hosts Legislature Meeting Peer-to-Peer Mentors from Suffolk County Veterans Treatment Court participate in the Veterans and Servicemembers Rights Clinic Seminar p TOP ........................................... L-R committee member Legislator Sarah Anker 6th District- Brookhaven Suffolk Veterans Treatment Court Presiding Judge John Toomey Legislator Stern and committee member Legislator Thomas Barraga 11th District-Islip. u RIGHT ........................................... Benjamin P. Pomerance Deputy Director for Program Development New York State Division of Veterans Affairs addresses the committee. L-R clinic students Eleonora Zeltser Cassandra Sticco and Cynthia Capobianco mentors Frank DAversa and Clarence Simpson rear clinic student Robyn Rothman Clinic Director Ken Rosenblum mentor Adam Jankowski clinic students Karen LaGrega Catherine Mendolia Hanin Shadood and Vanessa Cavallaro 225 Eastview Drive Central Islip NY 11722 631-761-7000 www.facebook.comtourolawclinic Rachel Kerremans Clinical Programs Newsletter Contributor Part-time 3L student Rachel Kerremans is serving as the Clinical Programs Writer for her first year. She enjoys interviewing and writing about students experience and the various pro bono projects amongst the Clinic. Rachel was an intern in the Family Law Clinic last semester representing clients in child support arrears and modifications. On September 25 2015 Governor Cuomo signed into law new procedures for resolving maintenance and equitable issues in divorces in Supreme Court. The principal purpose of the law is to deal with maintenance. First Domestic Relations Law 236b5 is amended. That section adopted in 2010 created a formula for temporary maintenance pending a Supreme Court divorce action. Many judges and practitioners found parts of the formula unworkable and a concerted effort by several groups resulted in a new formula which should make more sense to all parties involved in a divorce. The law also creates for the first time a formula for permanent maintenance which had previously been left to the discretion of the court. Hopefully this new law will bring some regularity and predictability to spousal maintenance in divorce proceedings. One other aspect of the new law deserves special attention. It purports to legislatively repeal the definition of marital property created in the landmark case of OBrien v. OBrien 66 N.Y.2d 576 1985. In that seminal case the Court of Appeals declared that enhanced earning capacity created by a license or degree acquired during the marriage is a form of property subject to equitable distribution. For thirty years attorneys representing the propertied spouse have complained that the asset has no value and giving the non-propertied spouse a share is unfair to the spouse who has to pay from other liquid assets. In the new law the following language was added to the factors for distribution DRL 336b5d7 the Court shall not consider as marital property subject to distribution the value of a spouses enhanced earning capacity arising from a license degree celebrity goodwill or career enhancement. However in arriving at an equitable division of marital property the Court shall consider the direct or indirect contributions to the development during the marriage of the enhanced earning capacity of the other spouse There are two problems with this section. First the Legislature included this language in the factors for distribution DRL 236b5 rather than in the definition of marital property DRL 236b 1c which would have made more sense. The Legislature further did not state that the license degree etc. was not property only that it was not marital property. The implication is that it is separate property but the language is not clear. Finally because the new definition allows the direct or indirect contributions to be considered the value asset will still have to be valued. In a divorce even separate property sometimes must be valued because the court has the power to consider the value of separate assets retained by each spouse. Here it seems that the license or degree must still have some financial worth and in many divorces a value will still be placed on it. Itissubmittedthatthenewlawintendedtoredefine andlimitthebroaddefinitionofpropertycreated byOBriendoesnosuchthingandwillonlyinvite additionallitigationtodetermineitsexactscope. NYS Legislature Changes Divorce Laws Creates Problems with New Definitions Commentary by Professor Lewis A. Silverman Director Family Law Clinic Vanessa Cavallaro Clinical Programs Newsletter Media Editor Full-time student Vanessa Cavallaro is serving as the Clinical Programs Media Editor for a second year highlighting the experiences of students and the successes they achieve for their clients. Vanessa was a Public Interest Fellow in the Elder Law Clinic and is now an intern in the Veterans and Servicemembers Rights Clinic.