The F.O.C.I.S. Paralegal Advocacy Group (Paralegal Services at Reduced Prices)
Attention: Members of the Incarcerated Community & All Others Concerned
Subject: Paralegal Services For The Incarcerated and Others
Reason: Explaining The Services We Provide
Dear: Members of the Incarcerated Community & All Others Concerned,
We are pleased to provide you information regarding the Paralegal Services Division of the F.O.C.I.S. MOVEMENT. As you may already know, the F.O.C.I.S. MOVEMENT was created by law students from Columbia University, Cornell University, Syracuse University and New York University. Its mission and purpose is to bring attention and awareness to the injustice that lies in the New York State Department of Corrections, Judicial System and Law Enforcement. We have enacted a Paralegal Services Division to the movement which provides the incarcerated community limited legal assistance in the preparation of their motions and briefs in Criminal and Civil cases. We should inform you that we are not lawyers and therefore cannot represent you in a court of law or substitute our legal advice or research for that of competent counsel. However, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 555, Sperry v. Florida 373 U.S. 379 and Bounds v. Smith 430 U.S. 817, we are allowed to prepare legal documents for you, at which time you would review them for accuracy and either file them in the courts pro-se (on your own) or submit them to a lawyer for representation. If you decide to proceed pro-se, we can assist you in getting your paperwork filed in the courts and help you appeal to the highest level, if needed. If you seek representation by counsel, we can present your case to the lawyers we work closely with and hopefully they will represent you on the motion we have prepared for you, but we offer no guarantees in this area.
We also have experience in Representation By Proxy, which entails handling prisoners’ personal, business and legal affairs through the laws of Power of Attorney (POA). If you hire us as your “chosen agent” through a POA agreement, you grant us authorization to serve in place of the principal (you) who is either not available (or) who lacks the skills and ability to perform a needed or required function that can best be performed by the experienced agent. Although in some jurisdictions an agent can function in a court of law for their principal, the agent cannot appear as an attorney for the principal. Rather, the agent serves only in place of the principal (e.g., the principal proceeding pro-se and the agent appearing in their place). Please understand that if we decide to act as your POA, we will be verbally advancing your pro-se arguments in a court of law if oral arguments are permitted, so it is vitally important that we are in full agreement as to what needs to be said to the courts. Below we will explain the legal areas that we have expertise in. They are as follows:
Article 78 petitions from misbehavior convictions.
CPL 440.10 & 440.20 motions challenging the legality of convictions and sentences.
Habeas corpus proceedings challenging convictions and sentences obtained in violation of an inmate’s constitutional rights.
Court of claims suits seeking compensation for personal injuries.
42 U.S.C. Section 1983 federal lawsuits seeking compensation for injuries sustained as a result of the violation of prisoner’s constitutional rights.
Direct appeals to the Appellate Division from judgments of conviction.
Error Coram Nobis applications to the Appellate Division.
Regarding the preparation of administrative appeals on behalf of inmates who have been convicted of misbehavior violations, our office carefully tailors each appeal to the individual circumstances of each inmate’s case. In this way, we believe that we immeasurably increase the chance for a successful outcome.
Inmates who hire us to challenge their misbehavior/criminal conviction should be aware of the importance of presenting appropriate supportive documentation in advance of submitting their appeal. Such submission should include all pertinent supportive documentation. Included in the services that we offer is counseling to help put together the most optimal package designed to enhance the chance of success at these proceedings.
DISCIPLINARY CONVICTIONS CHALLENGED THROUGH ARTICLE-78 PROCEEDINGS:
Article 78 Proceedings are available to challenge misbehavior convictions. For example, in Matter of Santiago v. Fischer, the Third Department granted the inmate a new hearing after finding that the Hearing Officer had improperly failed to allow the petitioner to call a third correctional officer to testify at his disciplinary hearing. The inmate had allegedly been involved in an altercation with correctional officers during a search of his cell, and was charged with assaulting and interfering with staff, refusing a direct order, engaging in violent conduct, and causing a disturbance. At his hearing two officers involved in the incident testified, but the Hearing Officer refused the inmate’s request for a third officer to testify on the ground that his testimony would be repetitive. Inmates facing a disciplinary proceeding at which good time may be lost have a constitutional right to call witnesses provided that the witness has relevant testimony, would not be redundant and would not jeopardize institutional security. The Third Department held that the Hearing Officer erred in barring the inmate from calling the third correctional officer. His testimony would likely have not been redundant because his written version of the incident differed from the versions testified to by the two officers at the hearing.
Perhaps the most important element enhancing an inmate’s probability of succeeding is that he or she be represented by competent counsel or POA so as to insure that the importance of all issues are properly presented and preserved for appellate review, if that becomes necessary. Aside from the importance of the quality of the petition, most Courts, when affording oral argument, will do so only when inmates are represented by counsel or POA. These oral arguments can have an important effect on the ultimate outcome of the proceeding. Once we complete the draft copy of your legal brief, we can present it to three law firms that we work closely with, requesting that they accept your case. Please understand that there will be an additional fee if counsel accepts your case.
CPL 440.10 & 440.20 MOTIONS CHALLENGING THE LEGALITY OF CONVICTIONS AND SENTENCES:
Article 440 motions challenge the legality of a conviction or sentence. That is, if the conviction or sentence was imposed improperly (not following legal standard), then the conviction or sentence may be vacated. If the Article 440 motion is successful, a new trial will in all likelihood ensue and/or a new sentence will be imposed.
HABEAS CORPUS PROCEEDINGS CHALLENGING CONVICTIONS AND SENTENCES OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF AN INMATE’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:
A petition for habeas corpus is a post-conviction proceeding in which the courts will consider whether the government violated an inmate’s federal rights during the direct review of his/her case. It is considered a collateral (indirect) attack on the conviction, as opposed to a direct appeal of the conviction and record itself. Claims raised in a habeas petition are claims that are not apparent from reading the record—other facts are needed to prove the claim. As part of direct review, an inmate has the constitutional right to a trial and appeal. A habeas petition is an alternative argument seeking an inmate’s release because of violations of his/her federal rights, and not necessarily based upon innocence. There is no automatic right to habeas review. A petition for such review is required. If the court agrees that the conviction or sentence violates the federal constitution or a federal law, it can order a re-sentencing, a new trial, or immediate release.
COURT OF CLAIMS SUITS SEEKING COMPENSATION FOR PERSONAL INJURIES:
These claims are for injuries sustained as a result of (1) a correctional facility’s negligence in (i) properly protecting inmates from injuries by other inmates (ii) providing adequate medical care (medical negligence) or (iii) adequately and properly maintaining its premises; or (2) excessive force by correctional officers.
42 U.S.C. SECTION 1983 FEDERAL LAWSUITS SEEKING COMPENSATION FOR INJURIES SUSTAINED AS A RESULT OF THE VIOLATION OF PRISONER’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:
These lawsuits relate to seeking redress for the deprivation of any rights secured by the United States Constitution and federal laws. This law makes liable every person who by virtue of such deprivation causes injury to another person. These suits include injuries occasioned by, amongst other things, (i) assault, (ii) prison conditions and (iii) health issues and inadequate medical care.
Should we determine that your matter has merit and therefore be retained, our fees are as follows:
Administrative appeals from misbehavior convictions $500
(two issues raised)
Article 78 petitions challenging misbehavior convictions $1200
(filing fees are additional) (two issues raised)
Post conviction collateral motions to vacate convictions and sentences; $800
motions to withdraw guilty pleas (per issue raised)
Error coram nobis (inadequacy of appellate counsel) $800
( per issue raised)
Clemency petitions $1500
Federal habeas corpus petitions $1000
(per issue raised)
Direct appeals $1200
per issue raised
42 U.S.C. 1983 federal lawsuits $500
per issue raised
plus contingency fee
Court of claims suits seeking compensation for personal injuries $500
per issue raised
plus contingency fee
In addition to the above costs, you will be required to pay all administration fees in handling your litigation. The following is a list of some of the fees associated with litigating your case:
1) Letters you send us must be scanned into our computers and saved into your digital folder so that all files remain organized and accessible. For this service we must charge 20¢ per scanned page.
2) All of your legal briefs and motions must be professionally typed and edited by our editors. For that service we must charge $6.00 per typed page.
3) If we must make any copies of your legal documents and mail them to you or anyone else, we must charge a service fee of 20¢ per copied page.
4) If we must mail any of your legal documents to you or anyone else, we must charge you the cost of shipping and handling.
5) Any court fees, surcharges, filing rates, etc… will be charged to your cost of litigation.
As stated above, it is important to note that these fees are in addition to the above cost in perfecting your brief, motion, lawsuit, etc… So for instance, if you wanted us to handle a Federal Habeas Corpus Petition for you, your bill would be $1000.00 plus above administrative costs.
We do not believe that the incarcerated community should be financially exploited by those in the legal profession and so, with that in mind, we have set our prices at a rate that is reasonable to our clients and sufficient to keep our office up and running. Since we are already offering our services will below what law firms normally charge, we cannot handle any pro-bono work and cannot afford to respond to letters seeking pro-bono assistance. We apologize for this inconvenience. If you are interested in retaining us to assist you with your pro-se endeavors, please start by filling out the attached questionnaire with as much information as possible and return it to us. We will evaluate the information you send us and respond with a decision on whether or not we can accept your case and a quote on a retainer fee. If you decide to send us legal materials, PLEASE SEND ONLY COPIES OF DOCUMENTS OR OTHER MATERIAL FOR REVIEW. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU RETAIN THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS AS WE CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR DOCUMENTS OR MATERIAL THAT MAY GET LOST IN THE MAIL OR AT YOUR FACILITY.
We look forward to helping you vindicate your rights in court or through other appropriate channels.
Posha Jenson-Senior Paralegal
P.S. ALL payments should be made payable to:
The M.A.E.G Movement
P.O. Box 1625
Buffalo, NY 14215