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					              Barristers AIDS Legal Services Project
                     Newsletter for Volunteers
                         LOS ANGELES COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION /
                        HIV & AIDS LEGAL SERVICES ALLIANCE, INC.
                               EDITED BY LAURIE ARONOFF

                                 FALL 2006/WINTER 2007

                         MERRILEE SNELL HONORED
Snell Honored at                 fought partial victory.          for Medi-Cal patients,"
LACBA Installation               Staunch HALSA supporter          Brian was quoted in the Daily
                                 and pro bono partner, Brian      Journal article published
LONG-time AIDS Legal             Condon led the Court of          about the opinion.
Services volunteer attorney,     Appeal filing against
Merrilee Snell was at last       California’s Department of
accorded the recognition she     Health.                           Huge Congratulations to
deserves. Merrilee                                                 both Merrilee and Brian
received the Benjamin            The original complaint was
                                 filed in LA Superior Court in     for receiving an Angel
Aranda Pro Bono Award                                              Award - California
from the Los Angeles County      February 2004 challenging
                                 the government’s system for       Lawyer’s first ever pro
Bar Association for the                                            bono awards recognizing
twelve years of pro bono         approving (or more
                                 accurately, disapproving) a       just 16 attorneys from
immigration services she has                                       throughout the state for
provided to people living        particular hormone treatment
                                 for people with AIDS who          their “fierce
with HIV and AIDS. Over
                                 suffer from wasting               commitment to pro bono
400 guests attended the June
                                 syndrome and the life             work.”
event at the downtown Omni
hotel and heard keynote          threatening cycle of routine
speaker and new New York         treatment denial they face.
Governor, Elliot Spitzer.                                         Immigration
Merrilee’s most recent client,   A partial victory was claimed
a boy of just six from           after the decision in October.   A further measure of how
Zambia, is legally staying in    The ruling should help future    devoted our pro bono
the US and receiving life        Medi-Cal patients receive        immigration attorneys are, is
saving treatment, thanks to      drug treatment that is           to see how long they stay
Merrilee’s efforts to secure     recommended by their             with individual clients to
him the appropriate visa.        doctors even though it           ensure that the person’s
                                 doesn’t meet the state’s         immigration status is secure.
                                 published drug criteria by       Solo practitioner, John
Arnold & Porter Medi-            strengthening the weight of      Manley, is one such attorney
Cal Case Update                  the treating physician’s         and often profiled in our
                                 opinion which can no longer      newsletter.
Over 2,400 billable hours        be ignored by the state
later, the saga of Arnold &      Department of Health             His most recent 30 hour case
Porter’s Medi-Cal case is        Services. "It’s a favorable      took five and a half years.
finally over with a hard         interpretation of the statute    That’s how long the CIS took
 2                                                    AIDS Legal Services Project
to adjudicate an adjustment       Ally hadn’t known about the      well for about 15-20 of
of status and HIV waiver for      trip, but fortunately, he was    HALSA’s clients and Karen
a 34 year-old asylee from El      able to counsel the client’s     got Martin’s application
Salvador. Admittedly some         partner about what to do         approved in just under a year!
of the delay was the client’s     before the client returned.
difficulty in saving for the
filing fees, which are             “Thank you all for your
extremely high and about to        excellent service of my         Benefits
go even higher. In fact, the       immigration case. Made
filing fees are a huge barrier     me feel happy and special.
                                   I’m making a contribution       LOTS of benefit news.
for many of our clients and                                        HALSA has seen a
are often the reason they          to HALSA as a small token
                                   of my appreciation.”            tremendous increase in the
don’t follow through.                                              number of Social Security
 “Thank you so much for                                            disability overpayments in
 everything. He (John) was                                         the last several years with
 very helpful till the end.”      Long-time volunteer Ricardo      often a very similar scenario.
                                  Viscarra, very generously        Benefit recipients become
                                  stepped in with a tight          well enough to return to
Thanks to our immigration         deadline to file the necessary   work, notify their local SSA
panel, we have recently had       HIV waiver for a 43 year old     office, file their tax returns,
several other asylees             asylee from Burma and            and then continue to get
successfully adjust status to     successfully advocate for the    disability checks. They think
legal permanent residency.        client’s LPR status.             gee, I guess I’m still entitled
Sole practitioner and long-       “100% satisfied. Thanks for      to benefits since I told them
time supporter, Ally Bolour,      your kind help. I may need       I’m working. So, they cash
assisted a 42 year old gay        your help again in the           the checks and spend the
HIV+ man from Bangladesh          future.”                         money. Literally years later,
to become a legal permanent
resident after waiting for over   Last immigration news is a
six years. The client became      successful NACARA
so impatient and desperate        (Nicaraguan & Central
with the process that after his   American Relief Act)
father, whom he hadn’t seen       application filed by a new
in over eight years died, and     volunteer, Davis, Wright
his mother was ailing, he         Tremaine attorney, Karen
                                                                   SSA catches up with their
returned to Bangladesh for        Henry, on behalf of a 32 year
                                                                   error and hits the recipient
several months, while his         old Salvadoran who has been
                                                                   with an overpayment that
application was still pending.    living in the US since 1989.
                                                                   often totals tens of thousands
                                  The client had filed for
This was, of course, a rather                                      of dollars and they want
                                  Temporary Protective Status
risky proposition for an                                           immediate repayment.
                                  (TPS) and received a work
asylee, especially someone        permit so he worked and paid     In one case, the client had
with HIV since non-US             his taxes until he became too    been very ill in 1998 and
citizens are excludable and       ill with AIDS several years      started receiving SSDI.
he could have been prevented      ago. NACARA has worked           However, within a year, he
from re-entering the U.S.                                          was doing much better and
  3                                                     AIDS Legal Services Project
returned to work after             work. He also documented           disability carrier. The client,
notifying SSA on several           every subsequent                   44 had been totally disabled
occasions. Nonetheless, he         conversation with SSA. The         for over 10 years and was
continued receiving disability     client still received his          collecting both SSDI as well
checks and figured he was          checks and COLA notices            as private disability benefits.
still entitled to benefits until   every year for three years,
                                                                      When he first became
2003, when SSA hit him with        until SSA realized he had
                                                                      disabled, he gave his carrier
a $58,000 overpayment.             gone back to work and sent
                                                                      permission to communicate
                                   him the overpayment notice.
While sole practitioner,                                              directly with SSA regarding
Patricia McCabe, appealed          Leslie had about a 99%             his benefit amounts. Due to a
the overpayment, the client        success rate when she was          miscommunication between
scaled back his work as he         HALSA’s Benefits attorney          SSA and the carrier, the
became ill again and at one        and she applied those same         insurance company realized
point, his benefits stopped        skills to win a fully favorable    AFTER 10 YEARS, that they
altogether. After a three year     overpayment waiver for her         had overpaid the client
battle in state court, Patty       first pro bono client.             $77.00 a month and they
finally prevailed and got SSA                                         wanted their nearly $10,000
to waive the entire amount as                                         returned.
well as resume benefits.           Private Benefits                   The company wanted the
Once again, Patty has shown                                           client to sign a Repayment
what a great advocate she is,                                         Agreement which gave the
                                   People living with HIV who
not only through her zealous                                          company the right to declare
                                   are lucky enough to have
representation, but by also                                           the entire amount
                                   private disability insurance,
graciously accepting                                                  immediately repayable at any
                                   often face obstacles to
additional challenges as the                                          time, and to completely cut
                                   continuing their benefits as
matter evolves which would                                            off his disability checks until
                                   well. In this case, the client’s
account for the three year                                            repaid.
                                   carrier had suspended
odyssey.                                                              Just to add to the fun, three
                                   payments after two years,
Lastly, Congratulations to         believing he was no longer         months after Byron accepted
Patty for taking the helm of       sick enough to qualify for         the referral, the carrier
the SFV Bar Association            disability. The client’s initial   decided to review the client’s
Board of Trustees!                 appeal was denied, but thanks      continuing eligibility to
                                   to LONG-time volunteer and         receive benefits and wanted
                                   previous Aranda awardee,           to send out an investigator for
Former HALSA Staff                 Byron Gross, Health Law            a lengthy interview with the
attorney, Leslie Kline-            partner at Hooper Lundy &          client.
Capelle of Healthcare              Bookman, the carrier later         Byron couldn’t get the
Advocates, very kindly took        reversed their decision and        company to waive the
a $20,000 overpayment case         awarded benefits again.            $10,000 but was able to keep
pro bono when she left
                                                                      the client on benefits and
HALSA in 2005.
                                                                      negotiate monthly payments
Her client sent a letter to SSA    Soon after resolving this
                                                                      that the client could afford.
certified mail, informing          issue, Byron took on another
them that he returned to           problem with a long-term
 4                                                    AIDS Legal Services Project
Around the same time, Jon        administrative court for a        $2,000. Maria, an asylee
Neustadter, another              new hearing.                      from El Salvador, had
Hooper Lundy & Bookman           The case was then                 worked for over ten years in
partner took on a                successfully settled sparing      the US but about a year ago,
complicated Medi-Cal case in     the client from another           became too ill to continue
state court. The client had      hearing. The State agreed to      working.
been extremely ill, found out    pay a substantial portion of      Maria had tried to negotiate
he was HIV+, was uninsured       attorney’s fees which the         an affordable payment plan to
and hospitalized for nine        firm very graciously used to      no avail. In fact, the
days. He wound up with a         pay the client’s hospital bill,   creditor’s harassment and
$25,000 hospital bill and        (the sole outcome the client      illegal threats of incarceration
filed for Medi-Cal benefits.     was seeking). The hospital        were so stressful, the client
Fortunately, he was able to      agreed to accept the amount       wound up in the hospital for
return to work about nine        Medi-Cal would have paid,         a few days. Numerous firms
months later. Unfortunately,     as payment in full, and then      were contacted to file a
this triggered a denial of       wrote off the remainder of        response, but they all
benefits from Medi-Cal           the bill. The hospital even       conflicted out with the credit
because the client was           informed the outside              card company, until Kregg
disabled for less than 12        collection agency to close the    accepted the matter. And as
months, known as the 12          account as well.                  often the case with a pro
month rule.                                                        bono referral and skilled
                                 Last, but not least, the firm
When the client came to                                            legal counsel: A few weeks
                                 also made a $2,000
HALSA, he had already                                              later, Kregg had convinced
                                 donation to HALSA.
exhausted his administrative                                       opposing counsel to dismiss
appeals. HALSA’s staff           Many, many thanks to              the lawsuit.
attorney felt the ALJ decision   Hooper, Lundy & Bookman
was erroneous on its face        for all of the support they
because the ALJ did not          have shown to ALSP’s              In an unusual debtor/creditor
complete the medical             clients through the years. As     matter, long-time volunteer
disability determination         has often been the case on        attorney and another former
assessment. Jon accepted the     pro bono litigation matters,      Aranda pro bono award
referral to file a writ in       Hooper Lundy spent far more       winner, E. Thomas
Superior Court, arguing that     in litigation and attorney        Moroney stepped in to clear
the client met a medical         costs than the original           up a judgment a transgender
listing with the hope it would   disputed amount.                  client received as the result of
be remanded for another                                            identity theft. The thief used
                                 Debtor Rights                     the client’s identity when
hearing on the disability
determination.                   First time volunteer attorney     involved in a car accident and
                                 Kregg Koch, Holland &             the other driver’s auto
After nearly a year of                                             insurance company obtained
                                 Knight, graciously accepted
litigation in a Sacramento                                         a $14,000 judgment against
                                 a quick turn around referral
courthouse, Jon recently                                           our client who is disabled on
                                 for a client, Maria, on
reported on the good news                                          SSI.
                                 SSDI/SSI who was being
that the case had indeed been
                                 sued by a credit mill for an      The matter had see-sawed
remanded back to
                                 old debt that was less than       back and forth for two years.
 5                                                     AIDS Legal Services Project
At first the insurance            In 1992, Roberta had recently    stress and anxiety for
company attorneys were held       moved to Los Angeles from        HALSA’s clients.
at bay while Tom wrestled         Texas. She had her first
with the hospital to obtain the   apartment and wound up           And in the client’s words:
medical files from the            breaking her lease because       “Very compassionate,
accident to prove the client      she was being sexually           generous, courteous and
was not involved. But the         harassed by the manager. She     timely. Again, Thank you so
hospital proved to be             had filed a police complaint,    much…what a “nerve”
extremely uncooperative and       but no further action was        saver… ☺ You people put a
Tom had to threaten a             taken. When Roberta moved        smile where there was panic;
lawsuit. In the meantime, the     out, she told the landlord to    you saved t-cells from being
insurance lawyers go antsy        keep her security deposit and    burned by the stress…1
and recorded a lien against       cleaning fee which amounted      million times Praise God for
the client.                       to almost three months rent.     You!”
                                  She moved in with a friend
The matter was finally
                                  and didn’t know she had been      CLE training at LACBA
cleared with a satisfaction of
judgment, which released the
                                  sued and a judgment entered.      April 25th, 6-7:30 pm, to
                                                                    recruit and train pro bono
client’s driver’s license and
                                  When the old eviction came        attorneys in debt relief and
prevented any action against                                        expand services. Call
                                  back to haunt her, and her
her on the judgment.                                                Laurie Aronoff at (213)
                                  credit union account was
Dana Perlman, Perlman &           cleaned out, on her own, she      637-1692 or
Associates, quickly stepped                                         laronoff@halsaservices.org
                                  filed a claim of exemption
in to assist a young single       with the court, and most of
female client, Roberta, who       the money was returned. But      In another classic example of
was in tears over a creditor’s    the creditor sold the debt and   our client’s somewhat dire
pursuit of a 15-year old debt.    Roberta was receiving            debtor/creditor problems -
Roberta was totally disabled      harassing phone calls and        Tom was seen at an Outreach
with Hepatitis C, cervical        letters from a new collection    clinic by our Discrimination/
cancer and AIDS. A levy           agency threatening to take       Confidentiality attorney. But
was placed on her credit          away her car. Beyond the         the issue he was really
union account for a judgment      point of endurance, she came     concerned about was that he
she received in 1992 that was     to HALSA and broke down          was out of work and had
renewed in 2002. The              in tears when she thought the    $45,000 of credit card debt.
amount was almost $4,000          collection agency could take     He had been diagnosed with
for a tenant eviction. But        her car and she wouldn’t be      HIV since 1988, but was
Roberta was judgment proof,       able to get to all of her        asymptomatic except for
since her only income was         doctor’s appointments.           chronic fatigue. Tom had
Social Security disability.                                        been laid-off by Boeing and
The credit union erroneously      As Dana put it, after a few      was at the end of his
released her limited funds to     letters and phone calls, the     unemployment benefits. He
the creditor causing Roberta      creditor agreed to write off     had been partially living off
to bounce checks for her          the debt. This case is a text    of his credit cards as well as
basic living expenses.            book example of how just a       borrowing from friends,
                                  few hours of an attorney’s       family and his life insurance
                                  time can lift a huge veil of
 6                                                 AIDS Legal Services Project
policy and actively seeking    had Section 8 housing and his    kept mailing his money
employment.                    partner, Silvia (also living     orders to the old landlord. In
                               with AIDS) was serving as a      fact, Jesus first became aware
Thanks to new volunteer        live-in aide until the Housing   of the new owner when he
attorney Karrin Feemster,      Authority informed them that     received the summons.
formerly of Saltzberg, Ray     Silvia could not be an aide
& Bergman, and now with        because she had an alleged       Jesus filed his answer pro per
the NASD, who filed a          criminal background.             with the assistance of the
successful bankruptcy                                           Self-help center in the
                               This turned out to be
petition. Now, Tom has a                                        downtown court and then
                               completely false and the
fresh start when he lands a                                     came to HALSA for help.
                               reason HA wasn’t allowing
new job.                                                        Fortunately, first time
                               Silvia to be the aide was
                               because she was                  volunteer Kahn Scolnick at
                               undocumented. While she          Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
 “HALSA and Laurie                                              quickly stepped in to prepare
 Aronoff were incredible.      herself is not eligible for
                               Section 8 housing because of     for trial.
 They saved my life. I was
 in an impossible situation    her immigration status, there
                               is nothing in the federal        A few weeks later, Kahn was
 and I believe the stress                                       ready for trial, with a well
 was taking a big toll on      statutes that require Live-In
                               Aides to have documented         prepared trial brief, a slew of
 my health. Without them,                                       arguments and a Gibson
 I don’t know what I would     immigration status, which is
                               the argument Kurtiss             Dunn partner in tow. As
 have done. Thank                                               often happens in
 You!...Karrin Feemster        successfully used to get the
                               Housing Authority to reverse     landlord/tenant matters, they
 was terrific. A great                                          reached a “pay and stay”
 lawyer who I felt very        their decision.
                                                                settlement. This should have
 comfortable with. I had                                        been the end of the matter,
 never used a lawyer                                            until the landlord (who was
 before. She helped me feel    More Housing                     on his third lawyer) tried to
 at ease when she knew I       A long-time survivor of          back out of the agreement
 was very nervous. And                                          and another trial date was
                               AIDS who had worked his
 she never made me feel                                         set…and settled.
                               whole life until becoming too
 ashamed or embarrassed
                               sick the previous year, was
 about filing. Thank you.
                               being evicted from his home
 Thank you. Thank you.
                               of 15 years.
 You have given me a new
                               Jesus was served a UD for
 chance.”
                               alleged non-payment of two
Housing News                   months’ rent. The client was
                               very well organized and
Kurtiss Grossman, long-        always paid rent with a
time volunteer and former      money order which he kept
HALSA staff attorney           copies of. It turns out his
resolved an interesting        rental house had been sold.
housing case. The client,      Neither the previous owner,
Jose, was both legally blind   nor the new owner had
and living with AIDS. He       bothered to inform him so he

				
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