Brooklyn Bar Association Foundation hosts free lecture on debt

Brooklyn Bar Association Foundation hosts free lecture on debt

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By Charisma L. Troiano, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Foundation Law Committee hosted a free public program at the Brooklyn Bar Association called, "Consumer Debt and Bankruptcy: The Process, Defenses and Options," which was designed to help people dealing with tough financial issues. Fern Finkel, left, the Foundation’s chair, moderated the presentation that included lawyers David J. Doyaga, center, and Richard A. Klass, right. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
The Foundation Law Committee hosted a free public program at the Brooklyn Bar Association called, “Consumer Debt and Bankruptcy: The Process, Defenses and Options,” which was designed to help people dealing with tough financial issues. Fern Finkel, left, the Foundation’s chair, moderated the presentation that included lawyers David J. Doyaga, center, and Richard A. Klass, right. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

A group of interested lawyers and members of the public joined two noted Brooklyn attorneys Monday night for a brief primer on consumer debt and bankruptcy.

Sponsored by the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Foundation Law Committee, the event served as an informational lecture outlining the process of a typical consumer collection proceeding (or a bankruptcy) and defenses available to both the debtor and consumer.

“The information people get here is valuable information for themselves or somebody they know or for the future … [and] all of our programs are pro bono. They are put on by attorneys who are well known practitioners,” explained Fern Finkel, chairman of the Foundations Law Committee and moderator of the evening’s lecture.

Brooklyn bankruptcy attorney David J. Doyaga and litigator Richard Klass provided the small group with inside information on how to deal with creditors, ways to use bankruptcy to assist in clearing debt and general credit advice.

“Just like every year you should Google your name, you should also check your credit report once a year to make sure there are no inaccuracies,” said Klass.

He further added, “One of the first things you want to think about is keeping accurate notes on what happened on what date. A lot of people save their bills and receipts, but it’s important to keep a paper trail of what the debt collectors did because there are violations out there.”

The Foundation hosts a number of programs every year on a variety of topics including elder law, Finkel’s area of expertise.

“We do four to six programs a year. We just did elder law, we’re going to do landlord/tenant next and probably matrimonial and criminal law: know your rights,” said Finkel.

Though the programs focus on legal topics, the lectures are geared toward the layman. “These are not geared toward the attorneys, but a lot of them come by because there is always something that they can learn,” Finkel noted.

Monday’s discussion touched on issues of home loan modifications and using the bankruptcy court to push a mortgage bank’s participation, an issue championed by many federal bankruptcy judges in Brooklyn.

“Brooklyn bankruptcy judges are dedicated to making sure loan modifications go through,” Doyaga stated. “There’s mood in Brooklyn that says ‘we’re here for debtors.’ They make sure the debtor gets every opportunity available.”
In Brooklyn’s favor, Manhattan bankers aren’t keen on crossing the river to attend a court hearing, Doyaga added.

“To get a loan modification agreed to, it sometimes takes just the threat of having to appear in Brooklyn to persuade the bank to agreement.”

–Rob Abruzzese contributing

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Abby C. Zampardi has been with Finkel & Fernandez, LLP since 2015, assisting clients in the drafting of all advance directives and drafting petitions and motions for guardianship litigation.

Prior to becoming the associate attorney at Finkel & Fernandez, Abby worked in the Foreclosure Part of the Nassau County Supreme Court, specializing in preparing orders and other documentation to assist with the adjudication of foreclosure cases.

Abby received her Juris Doctor degree from The George Washington University School of Law in 2014 and is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey. She received her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science, summa cum laude, from Binghamton University in 2011.

Abby was a Notes Editor and the Technology Editor of the Public Contract Law Journal, a publication of The George Washington University Law School in conjunction with the Public Contract Law section of the American Bar Association.

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Fern J. Finkel, Esq. is a co-founding partner at Finkel & Fernandez, LLP, concentrating in elder law, estate planning, asset protection, benefits and guardianships. She has been in private practice since 1990. Fern brings a wealth of experience and compassion to her clients. She is known for her skillful analysis of financial and personal circumstances and for providing practical planning to enable seniors and disabled clients to remain independent through advance directives, asset protection, benefits planning and trusts.

Fern graduated with honors from New York University College of Business and Public Administration in 1981. She received her Juris Doctor Degree from Boston University School of Law in 1984. She has been recognized as a New York Super Lawyers selectee in the field of Elder Law in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Fern has been selected by the Courts, as well as by family members, to serve as the appointed Guardian and/or Trustee for many individuals in need of personal needs and property management. She represents clients in all aspects of guardianship proceedings and has been appointed as Counsel and as Court Evaluator by the New York State Supreme Court in countless cases. She has helped thousands of seniors through her extensive community outreach and pro bono services on behalf of the indigent elderly of New York City. Fern spearheaded the Legal Education and Assistance Project, known as LEAP, at the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project. LEAP’s mission is to train and support pro bono attorneys in providing community outreach and education on all aspects of advance planning to seniors, with the goal of maximizing their independence and ability to remain at home long term.

Fern is the Treasurer of the New York State Bar Association Elder Law and Special Needs Section, Vice President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) New York Chapter, Chair of the Brooklyn Bar Association Foundation Law Committee, Co-Facilitator of the Working Model of Guardianship – WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakeholders), a Founder of the Touro Center Aging and Longevity Institute Guardianship Certificate Program, a Special Master of the Appellate Division Second Department Mandatory Civil Appeals Mediation Program, and Vice Chair of the Brooklyn Bar Association Elder Law Committee. She served for years as a volunteer certified mediator with Safe Horizons for community disputes, PINS cases and custody matters, as well as with the United States District Court, Eastern District.

Fern lectures for various Bar Associations and Continuing Legal Education providers on topics including the Role of the Guardian, Role of the Court Evaluator, Role of the Attorney for the AIP, Advance Directives, Medicaid and Asset Protection, Aging in Place, Supplemental Needs Trusts and Guardianships. She is a mentor attorney at the Brooklyn Law School HELP (Helping Elders Through Litigation and Policy) Clinic, the Touro Law School Externship Program, and the New York Law School Elder Law Clinic. Fern serves on the Committees on Character and Fitness for the Second Judicial Department.

Fern has received numerous awards for her pro bono service including: Selection as a 2019 “Champions of Justice: Women in Leadership in Law and Administration of Justice” Honoree by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle the 2013 Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project Building Bridges Award, the 2013 Brooklyn Bar Association Distinguished Service Award, the 2009 Brooklyn Bar Association Distinguished Service Award, the 2004 Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York Hanna S. Cohn Pro Bono Award, the 2003 New York State Bar Association Pro Bono Award for the Second Judicial District, the 1999 Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project Pro Bono Award, the 1996 Brooklyn Bar Association Frieda S. Nisnewitz Award for Pro Bono Service, and an Award of Merit from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 1997.

Fern was previously an Associate Attorney at the law firm of Damashek, Godosky and Gentile, where she litigated medical malpractice and personal injury cases.

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Julie Stoil Fernandez, Esq., Partner
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Julie Stoil Fernandez, Esq. a co-founding partner of Finkel & Fernandez, LLP is a highly experienced attorney who has been fighting for the safety and welfare of seniors and persons with disabilities since 1993.

Before beginning her legal career, Julie worked as a counselor for homeless men and women and, later, ran a 500-bed emergency overnight shelter for homeless men, forging close bonds with those in need of protection. Seeking to have greater impact, Julie attended law school at Northeastern University and graduated in 1992.

Immediately following law school, Julie worked at Manhattan Psychiatric Center on Ward’s Island in New York City for Mental Hygiene Legal Service, Appellate Division First Judicial Department, representing psychiatric patients in mental hygiene law retention hearings and treatment over objection proceedings in state and private psychiatric hospitals. Her representation included children institutionalized on Ward’s Island, and insanity acquittees at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center.

Julie Stoil Fernandez, Esq., Partner and ShirleyNext, Ms. Stoil started a solo elder law practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn which she continued for 15 years, providing guardianship representation, mental health advocacy and estate probate and administration. She also has since 1993, been appointed by judges in the New York State Supreme Court in all counties in New York City as Court Evaluator in Guardianship proceedings and as a Guardian and Trustee for persons adjudicated incapacitated. In 2015, she co-founded Finkel and Fernandez with Fern J. Finkel.

Julie is skilled at analyzing issues which arise when a person’s legal capacity is in question. She is quick to grasp complex fact patterns and excels at predicting the likelihood of success of a case. She creatively addresses emergencies which often arise while litigants are waiting to be heard on a guardianship matter and effectively negotiates agreements between oppositional family members in contested cases. She is a fierce advocate for her clients and, when litigation is necessary, Julie brings her extensive experience and passion to the cause.

Julie has assisted thousands of clients – protecting housing benefits; individual liberties and patients’ rights in institutional settings and the community; and through litigation, advocacy and special needs planning. Julie also is certified as an Elder Law, Family and Divorce Mediator and offers mediation services to parties who seek workable solutions to conflicts without litigation – an often-preferred method when addressing issues of mental illness and treatment compliance.

Julie is Co-Chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Elder Law and Special Needs Section’s Mental Health Committee, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and the Brooklyn Bar Association where she is a member of the Elder Law Committee. She has been selected as a Super Lawyer in both 2019 and 2020.

Both Fern and Julie serve as mentor attorneys to students from New York Law School’s Elder Law Clinic, Touro Law School’s Elder Law Externship Program and the Brooklyn Law School’s Helping Elders Through Litigation and Policy (HELP) Clinic.

Julie has written several elder law articles and she lectures in continuing legal education programs and in the community, providing guidance on using advance directives to help seniors age in place and retain independence.

Julie received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1985 and received her Juris Doctor degree in 1992 from Northeastern University School of Law. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1993.

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“Five stars for Julie Stoil Fernandez and Finkel & Fernandez. I hired Julie to help me get authority to remove a dangerous family member from my mother's home, when my mother, due to Dementia, was no longer able to say she wanted the family member removed. Julie worked diligently, and tirelessly during this very lengthy process. Julie was always encouraging and confident that we would prevail, and we did!!”
-Michele S.
“I first hired Julie in 2004, when my partner suffered a stroke and needed the appointment of a guardian in Queens County. It was a hotly contested matter with one of the parties even getting violent in the courthouse. Julie worked tirelessly with great patience to assist in resolving the legal and personal issues. Her dedication to her clients is extraordinary. She followed up on every detail until the Guardians were in place and we were enrolled in all the proper rehabilitation programs. Later, my partner regained his capacity and Julie assisted us in terminating the guardianship. Finkel & Fernandez then assisted us in preparing our advanced directives last year and making sure my partner’s funds were protected from predatory family members.”
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