Sybblis Law Firm, LLC Thu, 16 Aug 2018 11:36:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ABA president describes weeping mothers and due process concerns at the border Mon, 30 Apr 2018 00:13:26 +0000 It’s not just the crying that concerned ABA President Hilarie Bass when she met with mothers detained at South Texas’ Port Isabel Detention Center. But there was crying.

“It was clear they would give up anything to get their children back. And so to the extent that separation of the mother from her children was done in a punitive way, to prevent them from asserting legal asylum claims, I’d suggest it may well be effective,” she says. “And that’s of tremendous concern to me, and should be of concern to any American lawyer.”

Bass traveled to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to see how American lawyers can help families separated by federal immigration authorities. Public attention has focused on that situation over the past two weeks, as images of immigrants in chain-link holding cells and audio of children weeping for their parents found their way into the media. Bass was also looking at the due process implications of the “zero tolerance” policy—announced in early April by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions—for people who cross the border without authorization.

Those due process concerns were on display for Bass in the morning in the McAllen, Texas, federal courthouse for the Southern District of Texas. There, Bass saw 75 defendants plead guilty en masse to the misdemeanor crime of illegal entry. Each got only a few minutes with a public defender before their hearings, ABA Media Relations said on Twitter. All got “time served”—which, according to ABA South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project director Kimi Jackson, is typically a couple of days in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection holding facility—before being remanded directly into an ICE detention center.

Given all of that, Bass questions why a zero-tolerance policy is necessary.

“If these people have legitimate asylum claims, this whole exercise is really for naught,” says Bass, a Miami-based trial attorney and co-president at Greenberg Traurig. “And if they didn’t have legitimate asylum claims, they probably could have been immediately processed … without having a misdemeanor charge and a federal court hearing.”

See also: Want to help at the border? ABA groups offer avenues to donate time and money

In the evening, Bass was scheduled to have dinner with Jackson and other attorneys at ProBAR, as well as other attorneys active in representing the large population of detained immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley. ABA Media Relations says the plan was to talk about what they’ve observed and what kind of help they can use. But even before the dinner, Bass said it was clear that Spanish-speaking immigration attorneys were the critical need in South Texas.

“Because for the most part, these women are unrepresented,” she says. “And they have no understanding of what their rights are, or when they need a lawyer in the process, or how to protect their own legal rights, or how to seek reunification with their children.”

Bass encouraged those who can’t volunteer to donate to ProBAR, which they can do through the ABA’s Fund for Justice and Education.

The more than 2,000 children taken from their parents by the federal government are overwhelmingly Central Americans seeking asylum because of unchecked criminal gang violence in their home countries. One attorney told the Los Angeles Times Monday that parents are being told they will be reunited with their children if they agreed to withdraw their asylum claims and accept deportation—the exact kind of due process concern Bass raised.

After protests and bipartisan condemnation of the family separations, President Donald Trump last week reversed himself and signed an executive order ending the policy. That order requires families to be held together pending deportation hearings, which is likely to face a legal challenge. Through a long-running case on the rights of immigrant minors, a federal court ruled in 2015 that children may not be imprisoned with their parents. The Justice Department has asked the court to permit it, but it’s unclear what new information it could present that would change the judge’s mind.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear how more than 2,000 children who have already been taken from their parents can find them again.Advocates for immigrants report long waits during calls to government hotlines that yield little information. Left-leaning group Lawyers for Good Government is organizing a pro bono effort to reunite those families.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday that it would temporarily stop prosecuting adults in families with children, unless the adults have criminal records or pose a danger to the children. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the government was simply running out of places to detain immigrants.



These states have the best and worst civil access to justice Mon, 30 Apr 2018 00:07:09 +0000 Washington, D.C., provides the best civil access to justice while Mississippi provides the worst, according to new findings by the National Center for Access to Justice.

The “Justice Index” findings are based on access regardless of income, language ability, or physical or mental challenges, according to a press release(PDF) announcing the findings on Wednesday. More detailed findings are available here.

The top five states and jurisdictions for civil access to justice are: Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland and Connecticut. The worst five states and jurisdictions are: Mississippi, Wyoming, Puerto Rico, Nevada and South Dakota.

David Udell is executive director of the National Center for Access to Justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. He told the National Law Journal (sub. req.) that the “biggest story” in this year’s index is how courts are making progress in helping people without lawyers. “Nothing replaces the role of a lawyer, but with judicial leadership, many states are pursuing common-sense reforms to help poor Americans in civil cases,” he said.

Some examples: 44 states provide court forms on easy to navigate web pages, 23 states allow judges to take specified steps (such as explaining evidentiary requirements) to help self-represented litigants, and 20 states encourage the use of plain English in the courtroom.

Other key findings include:

• Fewer than one civil legal aid attorney is available per 10,000 poor people in the United States.

• Twenty-five million people in the United States have limited English proficiency, but nearly half the states don’t require a certified interpreter for people facing cases involving areas such as domestic violence, divorce, child custody and support, foreclosure and debt collection.

• Only 12 states require court staff to disclose that court fees can be waived for those who can’t afford to pay.



New tax law affects alimony, could spur divorce surge Sat, 08 Apr 2017 11:12:13 +0000

Some experts are predicting a surge in divorces this year as spouses paying alimony seek to take advantage of the deduction before it is eliminated.

Because of the new tax law, spouses paying alimony won’t be able to take a deduction while spouses receiving alimony will no longer have to report it as income, report PoliticoUSA Today and Morningstar. The alimony deduction has been in the tax code since 1942.

The change doesn’t affect people who divorce or sign a separation agreement before 2019, according to USA Today.

Spouses negotiating alimony payments may try to pay less when the change takes effect because there will be no tax savings, some experts told the newspaper. Brian Vertz, a family law lawyer in Pittsburgh, said women are more likely to be hurt by the change as they negotiate divorce terms.

“The repeal reduces the bargaining power of vulnerable spouses, mostly women, in achieving financial stability after a divorce,” Vertz told Politico.

USA Today cites U.S. Census Bureau statistics showing that 98 percent of the 243,000 people who received alimony payments last year were women.

Some lawyers question whether the change will affect prenuptial agreements that had called for payment of a set amount of alimony if there is a divorce.

Elimination of the deduction will lead to higher revenues overall for the government because the person who deducted the alimony was likely in a higher tax bracket than the spouse declaring the alimony as income, Morningstar says. Eliminating the deduction could also push the alimony payer into a higher tax bracket.