As this year quickly comes to an end and I begin planning for next year, I thought I would take a moment and reflect a little bit on 2017. What a year it has been at Ianiri Law LLC! This year saw a significant increase in DCF-related representation, from assisting parents with 51B investigations and comprehensive assessments to representing parents in court (Care and Protection Petitions and CRA’s) and at fair hearings (18 this year!). It also saw a steady influx of personal injury cases, mostly automobile accidents. Next year I will be looking to increase the number of fair hearings and personal injury cases I handle.
This year saw a number of very rewarding successes, both in and out of court. The ones that stand out for me are:
- After a two day fair hearing and about a six month wait, I recently received the written decision overturning a supported 51A against my client, a mental health clinician for children, who was accused of sexually abusing a child in a hospital. The child’s story, which only came out after his mother refused to allow my client to see him anymore, changed several times and neither he nor his mother had any credibility. The investigator, unfortunately, got caught up in the hysteria that was caused by the mother as well as another state agency conducting a parallel investigation. This was a very big deal, though, with dire consequences. My client lost her job over this spiteful 51A. Fortunately, the support, now removed from her record, will no longer adversely affect her career.
- I represented a Head of School of a charter school on the North Shore who was accused of neglecting a student who had been running around the school during the MCAS exam and kept flopping onto the hallway floor and then ran into his brother’s classroom just as all of the students were about to return from lunch. I had several experienced educators testify that the incident was nothing unusual and in fact is a daily occurrence in any school in Boston. Furthermore, while the child was upset, he was able to quickly process the event and go about his day without any lingering emotional issues. What became clear during the hearing however was that there was a behind-the-scenes campaign against my client by a number of underperforming teachers who had recently received non-renewal (termination) letters, and we believe one of them was behind the filing of the 51A. Unfortunately, my client suffered serious professional consequences due to the supported 51A, including being let go of a new job he hadn’t even started yet. To our surprise and absolute delight, the hearing officer called me the day after the tw0-day hearing concluded to inform me that the Area Director had already agreed to reverse the supported 51A, thereby avoiding the need to wait six to nine months to wait for her written decision. My client is back working as an educator and / or consultant doing what he is great at.
- Out in Greenfield I represented a client who had lost her job as a nurse at a school for at risk kids who had been accused of failing to adequately supervise a girl and a boy who were using the bathroom in her office. After a tw0-day hearing and about a four month wait, we learned that the support decision was being reversed. While she had been fired from her job, with the reversal, she should not have any problems (in terms of having a DCF record) working with children in the future.
- After drafting a comprehensive demand letter and several weeks of negotiations, I was able to successfully settle a personal injury case for a client who had been struck while crossing a street in the financial district in Boston. While the police stated that my client had not lost consciousness upon impact, which the insurance company initially accepted as fact, I was ale to show, via medical reports and a notation by a doctor that my client likely did lose consciousness and had suffered some memory loss as a result of the impact.
- In a Care and Protection case in Worcester, after DCF had changed the goal to adoption, and after I strongly encouraged my client to just stay focused on what she was doing and not to worry about the goal change, a couple of weeks ago the case was dismissed and my client once again has custody of her two-year old baby girl. The C&P had been filed after a hospital accused one or both parents of physically abusing my client\’s infant daughter. For months DCF pretended that they were genuinely working toward reunification even though it became painfully clear that their true position was that as long as neither parent took responsibility for harming the child reunification with either parent was not going to happen. This despite Judge Erskine’s frequent admonitions that not knowing how the child was injured was not going to be a bar to reunification at trial. She repeatedly said that the Service Plan was supposed to address that issue and that in these cases no parent ever “confesses” to harming their child. After receiving a “full compliance” at her second (or third) foster care review and after the case moved from Milford to Worcester (for a trial), DCF finally came around and agreed to reunify the child with my client.
Of course, there are other highlights as well, but I’m out of time…until the next time. Happy New Year all!