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Recent Clinic News and Victories
Three Clinicians Receive Accolades for Their Groundbreaking Work
Ian Weinstein, Bernice Grant, and Elizabeth Maresca
Ian Weinstein Receives CLEA's Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teaching Award
CLEA's Outstanding Advocate for Clinical Teaching Award recognizes an individual who has served as a voice for clinical teachers across the country and who has contributed to the advancement of clinical legal education. This year, CLEA recognizes Ian Weinstein, former Associate Dean for Clinical and Experiential Education, Professor of Law, and co-director of the Federal Litigation Clinic. At Fordham, he helped build a visionary experiential program, consisting of in-house clinics,externships and Fundamental Lawyering Skills (simulations). For more than 35 years, he has been devoted to his students, he has fought passionately for his clients, and he has stood shoulder to shoulder with his colleagues to advance our work. Ian's scholarship includes work on client counseling and clinical pedagogy as well as criminal law and access to justice. Starting from the experiences of clients and students, he foregrounds a central aspiration of clinical legal education -- the pursuit of justice by intentional lawyering. Although he may play the contrarian and cynic, Ian's unabashed faith in his students, his colleagues and the clinical method is contagious.
Bernice Grant Receives AALS M. Shanara Gilbert Award for Emerging Clinicians
The M. Shanara Award for Emerging Clinicians was given to Bernice Grant by AALS to honor her many achievements in the short stime she has been at Fordham. Bernice is the inaugural director of our Entrepreneurial Law Clinic (ELC), having come from U Penn Law. Her vision for the ELC encompasses not only helping individuals who want to start a business, but also meets Fordham's goal of social justice by focusing the work of her clinic on underserved communities. First she seeks entrepreneurs of color or other marginalized groups to be clients of the ELC. Second, she gives prefewrence to startups that have a socially positive goal as part of their business, such as training formerly incarcerated individuals.Bernice also created a podcast, Startuplawnchpad, with her students to cover many of the issues entrepreneurs face.As Senior Director of Fordham's Entrpreneurial Law Program, Bernice seeks to build upon Fordham's strengths in corporate law and intellectual property and provide students with opportunities to make their mark in the growing entreprenuerial community in New York City and beyond, through courses, events, conferences, and one-day mobile clinics.
Elizabeth Maresca's Tax Litigation Clinic Case Gets Boost Ruling in U.S. Supreme Court
On April 21, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in an Eighth Circuit case, Boechler v. Commissioner, 596 U.S. slip op., No. 20-1472, which favored a persuasive Fordham Tax Litigation case used in the brief and mentioned twice at oral argument. The opinion reinforced the Tax Clinic's position that tolling in some cases may not be jurisdictional.The recent ruling on a 30-day deadline could particularly benefit unrepresented, low-income taxpayers looking to take their disputes with the IRS to court.
"For decades, taxpayers' hands were tied when the IRS made a mistake. Their only option: pay now, challenge later. That changed in 1998 when Congress created and codified a comprehensive "collection due process" (CDP) scheme for judicial and administrative review of IRS collection decisions. The critical reform gave taxpayers the right to an adversarial process before the agency takes their property. Congress determined that such review was necessary because the IRS often seized property for taxes that were not in fact owed." -- From the Amicus Curiae brief in Boechler.
Students in the Fordham Tax Litigation Clinic, under the direction of Prof. Elizabeth Maresca, began representation of a client in 2018 when the IRS issued her a Tax Audit Notice claiming that she owed $80,000 in taxes for payments made through Visa to a store that she had sold years before. Clinic students began by contesting the underlying tax liability but then a series of mishaps over the ensuing years brought the case full frontal. The mistakes involved the IRS sending the final CDP notice to the wrong lawyer (in violation of several tax laws), and USPS losing the client's copy of the final notice. When it was discovered, 9-months later, that a Final CDP Notice had been issued, the Tax Clinic students filed a petition in the U.S. Tax Court. The Tax Court dismissed the case and the clinic students appealed the dismissal in the Second Circuit. The client's case is an example of why the 1998 law was codified in the first instance and was used in the Amicus brief.
Securities Litigation and Arbitration Clinic Wins Five-Day Arbitration
The clients, immigrants from China, were taken advantage of by their broker, who invested their money in one speculative biopharmaceutical company that did not have a single approved drug. Given their inexperience in investing and their limited ability to read and write English, they relied completely on their broker to manage their money. They lost a large part of their retirement savings in this investment. Five students, under the supervision of Professor Paul Radvany, worked on the case, all from the Class of '22: Ashley Abrankian, Dominic Conoshenti, Christoper Halm, Larysa Kern, and Jacob Sievers. They handled the direct examination of the clients and expert wirtness, cross-examination of the broker, and gave the opening statement and closing argument. The arbitrators ruled in favor of the clients, awarding approximately $96,000.
Read more here.
Immigrant Rights Clinic Halts Deportation of Long Time Legal Permanent Resident Thanks to Amendment to New York Law
Students in the Immigrant Rights Clinic, directed by Prof. Gemma Solimene, recently received the decision they were hoping for. Their client, a 40 year-old woman who had a green card and permanent legal residency since she was 14, was facing removal because of a conviction for possession of marijuana in her twenties in New York. In many states, including New York, a conviction for possession of marijuana was grounds for deportation. But in 2019, New York made amendments to its criminal law to provide for the vacatur amd expungement of certain marijuana convictions. The Clinic submitted a motion to terminate the removal case, arguing that the change in state law was valid for immigration purposes and the client was no longer removable as charged. The client was also eligible for relief from deportation, so teams of students worked with the client in gathering evidence to prove that she merited a favorable exercise of discretion if the motion to terminate was not granted. The discretionary relief would require the judge to balance several factors, including family ties, resident and work history, among others. The case ultimately did not need to go to an evidentiary hearing because the immigration judge ruled in the client's favor on the motion to terminate the case and found she was no longer deportable.
The client and her family were ecstatic, saying, "I just wanted to thank you for everything you and the students did for me this semester, because without you guys, I probably would not be here right now. I learned some new things like looking into different options to solve a problem. I know that my case has taken a lot of work and I want you to know that I appreciate that."
From left to right: Prof. Paul Radvany, Alejandro De La Torre '22, Chris Haughey '22, Mr. Pierre, Emma McGrath '22, and Okeya Smith '22
Securities Litigation and Arbitration Clinic Students Conduct and Win for Their Client in Arbitration.
Under the supervision of Professor Paul Radvany, director of the Securities Litigation and Arbitration Clinic, recently completed an arbitration. It was a two-day arbitration for a client nearing retirement. Rather than invest the client's retirement savings in an appropriate medium, his broker put all of the money in a very risky and illiquid Real Estate Investment. As a result, the client was unable to help his family because he could not access his funds. Four students worked on the arbitration, giving the opening statement and closing argument, and conducting the direct and cross-examinations: Alejandro De La Torre '22, Chris Haughey '22, Emma McGrath '22, and Okeya Smith '22. The arbitrator found for the client and awarded him $27,000.
Three of the Federal Litigation Clinic students who worked on the case and handled the appellate oral argument by phone. From left to right: Rebecca Guthrie '21, Elena Cicognani '21 (on the brief), and Quinn D'Isa '21.
Federal Litigation Clinic Students Win Remand for Client On Appeal in Employment Discriminaton Case
Over the last few years, Professors Michael W. Martin and Ian S. Weinstein shepherded several semesters of Federal Litigation clinic students, representing on appeal an originally pro se client who alleged race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and under statute 42 U.S.C. sec. 1981. Recently, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision that remands the case and allows the client to amend his pleading for the second time to include his Title VII retaliation claim. (The district court had found that neither the Title VII nor the sec. 1981 claim had merit and had dismissed both.)
At issue is the "joint employer" doctrine, which is potentially invoked when a subcontractor hires a person who nonethless may be subject to the principal's control. In this case, a subcontractor of the USTA hired the client to be a security guard at the US Open. But when the client went to pick up his credentials for the days-long event, the USTA declined to issue them. The subcontractor then terminated the temporary employment, telling the client that the USTA denied the credentials because of a discrimination law suit he had previously initiated against the USTA's primary security contractor. The Second Circuit discussed the joint enployer test which the client had not included in his pro se pleading, and found that because he did not have counsel then, it was reasonable to infer that he was not aware as to how one should correctly plead this type of employer relationship. The court also finds that the client "plausibly alleged that the USTA rejected his assignment in retaliation for his protected activities against a USTA subcontractor," and remanded the case.
UPDATE! Governor Hochul signed the Fair Consumer Judgment Interest Act into law on December 31, 2021.
Fordham Law students in the Legislative and Policy Advocacy Clinic, in coalition with the Feerick Center for Social Justice, were key players in successfully passing the 2021 Fair Consumer Judgment Interest Rate bill. Watch the video.
View the Act here.
Lincoln Square Legal Services, the professional law firm run by the faculty of Fordham Law’s clinical program, has launched its new website. The site spotlights the practice areas of the School’s live-client clinics and the clinical faculty lawyers who supervise them. It highlights news about the firm and its advocacy for, and victories on behalf of, clients.
Lincoln Square Legal Services provides Fordham Law students with valuable legal training. Students participate in all aspects of the casework and are supervised by Fordham Law clinical faculty throughout their work.