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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I want my money! What do I do? (What to do when you are not paid)

This has been an interesting week for civil trials at Hanover Law. A common theme was - "I want my money, bitXX!" (ahem). Namely, how do you collect money owed to you for work done?

First, let me caution you that obtaining a lawyer to go after money that is owed to you is often not a good idea. We attorneys tend to charge a minimum of $1500 to go to trial, and unless you can expect to get at least double that, a civil suit to collect money is likely a bad choice. A good attorney will always discuss whether a suit makes sense for you -- and be sure to ask about fees and the likelihood of success. Oddly, hand-in-hand with this, we have had to turn down clients that absolutely wanted to sue, even if they would lose money doing it. Revenge and anger are poor motivators for legal action. NOT because they can't be legitimate and proper, but because they tend to cool llloonnnggg before trial is ever had. As such, the client wakes up 6 months into the battle, only to realize they are paying a lot of money for legal representation and will likely get nothing but some form of visceral satisfaction at the end (i.e. no money!).

So how can you collect? The proper procedure is (1) demand letter, and (2) small claims court. You are the creditor (the person owes you money). The person who owes you money is called the "debtor". Initially, you need to contact the person that owes you money. Ask them politely to pay you what they owe. Give them 5 business days. If that fails, send them a letter (demand) indicating the amount due, the reason for the amount, the conversation you had on the phone, and your intention to sue them if they fail to pay. Give the debtor 15 business days (three weeks) to pay. If that fails, pay $75 to the clerk of the district court, and file a small claims action against the debtor.

On the date of the trial, go to small claims court and present your case. Small claims is very informal -- you are not bound to any rules of evidence, and the judge is free to discuss the case openly with you and the other party. The judge will encourage you to try to settle with the debtor first. That might mean accepting less money, but getting paid immediately. Or perhaps you will need to finish what you started and the debtor will pay the court. When you complete, the court will pay you (called a bond). If you can't settle, the judge will hold an informal trial. Each side will be able to show why it should prevail. Be sure to bring your evidence!

Evidence includes things like bills, hours on the job, proof of work, or a contract.

If the other side does not show up -- then ask for a default judgment. This allows you to win automatically once you show sufficient evidence to prove a valid claim.

After you have a judgment, you write to the debtor again. You ask them to please pay the judgement, or you will place a lien on their property. A judgment lien may be placed against the debtor's house, car, or other real property. That last step is a little tricky, but a quick call to a local attorney can be helpful at this stage -- and since the trial is now over, the cost is significantly less.

If you have an outstanding amount that is owed to you -- contact Hanover Law. We can discuss ways you can help yourself in small claims court, or if the amount is sufficient, we can help win the case for you. We also specialize in collecting on judgments. While this service is not free, we have an excellent collection ratio!


Sean R. Hanover, Esq
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Lost Entry Document (non-EWI proof!)

Occasionally we get an immigrant/alien in our office who was admitted to the United States legally, but is still considered EWI (entry without inspection) by the government. For those new to the immigration law arena, EWI is a criminal act. A double EWI can lead to a permanent bar from the US, and a single EWI can bar any change of status while in the US, and prevent entry (via visa) into the US for up to 10 years. Theses are serious consequences!

The burden on proving lawful entry into the US rests with the alien. He/She must show a valid I-94 stamp or document in his/her passport to rebut the presumption of illegal entry. What happens if you enter the US and don't get an I-94? Happens all the time. Most common example is Canada. Cars are frequently passed through the border crossing with only a cursory glance at ID or passports -- especially if one of the members in the vehicle is a US Citizen. Entry through a valid border -- even if just waived thru by the CBP (custom and border patrol officer) is a valid entry and not EWI.

To fix the problem, we use a form I-102. An expensive solution, but effective for obtaining an I-94 when you entered AT A VALID BORDER CROSSING, but did not receive an I-94. The processing fee is ~$350, and requires evidence that you were there. Usually an affidavit from other passengers in the care is sufficient to provide the evidence needed. Processing is roughly 90 days from submission (although, if can take significantly longer if USCIS loses your paperwork).

It is VERY important you contact a lawyer prior to submitting your I-102. You will want a G28 to accompany your paperwork to ensure nothing gets lost, and you will want an attorney to review your submission PRIOR to mailing, to ensure you aren't missing anything.

Hanover Law has been managing immigration matters for some time. We have extensive experience with just about every aspect of immigration practice -- including I-102 and lost I-94's. We can help! Contact us to setup and appointment, or to speak with one of our attorneys on the phone.


Sean R. Hanover, Esq (Immigration page)
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Stopping Deportation - Difference between CAT and ASYLUM type relief

Admittedly, this is an odd title for a blog post. However, the focus of this entry is tactics -- and it is not just limited to removal proceedings. Specifically, this post will cover the difference between ASYLUM and WITHOLDING relief/submissions and CAT/TPS claims.

The key difference between the two groups is focus. A CAT (Convention Against Torture) and TPS (Temporary Protective Status) claim focuses NOT on the client or alien, but rather on the state of the country from which he/she comes. What are the conditions of the home country? Would the alien likely be tortured or killed if they returned? Is the country listed on the TPS register (State Department)? Whether the fear or torture is reasonable or not, or whether this particular alien is well founded in his or her fear has much less weight.

A brief note about TPS and CAT: TPS is not so much a defense, as it is a request by an alien, already present in the US, to be allowed to stay while conditions in his home country are bad. Determination of which countries qualify for TPS classification is made by the State Department. CAT is a defense application. It is made in front of an immigration judge using form I-589. This requests the judge not deport the alien because, if returned to his home country, the alien would be subject to murder, torture, or other bad acts perpetrated by the government, as a result of his belonging to a protected group. No evidence of prior bad acts against this alien is required in either TPS or CAT (although it does help).

Asylum and withholding are a different kettle of fish. Asylum requests, made before or during the pendency of an immigration trial, require a well-founded fear on the part of the asylum seeker. This fear must have credible roots in the past experience of the alien; his/her fear must stem from prior events, or situations in which the alien was directly involved, or directly threatened. Asylum is "alien"-centric. Additionally, asylum is only available to individuals of good moral conduct. Those with certain types of criminal convictions (called aggravated felonies)are barred from asylum relief.

Withholding is only available during an immigration trial. It is a request to the judge to "withhold" deportation (removal) because of the alien's "reasonable fear" of returning to the alien's home country. This is a lesser standard than the asylum "well founded fear", and is designed to cover a much broader category in immigration defense. An immigrant who is granted "withholding" by a judge may apply for work authorization, but may not adjust status to LPR (green card holder), and may not bring family members with him/her (called derivative status) -- which makes withholding a much lesser step-child to asylum.

Hanover Law can help in determining which relief you qualify for -- before you are detained by ICE OR if you are already in removal proceedings. Do NOT sign any documents from ICE without consulting with us first! If detained, DO NOT agree to any plea until you speak with us. A poor choice of words, or the wrong signature, can cause horrible consequences, and prevent many of the types of rlief discussed herein from applying to you.

We at Hanover Law have been working with just these types of immigration cases for some time. We are sensitive to the frightening and often bewildering nature of the immigration process, and we can help you understand what is happening, and the best steps you need to take.

Call us today to discuss your case. WE CAN HELP. However, the longer you wait, the riskier it becomes when you are finally brought before an immigration judge.

Sean R. Hanover, Esq
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