Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

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How Casa San Jose and its Volunteer Rapid Response Lawyers can be a force for Justice and Mercy.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | January 7, 2019

No. 1,603

Casa San Jose volunteer attorney Mary Nell Cummings relates the following story how its Rapid Response Team made a huge difference to a family in need.  This account has been edited to protect lawyer-client confidentiality.

“On January 3, a Casa San José community member was picked up by ICE. He has lived in the US for 18 years with absolutely no criminal record or any arrest or complaint.  He has three US-born children. His oldest son has stomach cancer, and the family has been told that there isn’t much more that can be done. ICE picked him up as he was going to give a friend a ride to work. ICE was not looking for him, he was literally at the wrong place at the wrong time. 
We were able to get to ICE quickly, and by talking to agents and telling them of this msn’s son’s condition, not only were we able to keep him from being transferred to Beaver County Jail but ultimately he was released from the South Side office! If he had been transferred to Beaver County Jail, he would be in the system and it would be much more difficult to get him out before a scheduled bond hearing (which we all know takes weeks/months). Time he doesn’t have because his son is so ill.
While we kept our client from being transferred, Monica Ruiz  and Sister Janice and their assistant Laura did their magic – gathering documents, evidence, letters from doctors. Monica drove all over Pittsburgh, and ultimately provided convincing evidence of our client’s son’s condition and the agents agreed to let him go – without even an ankle bracelet. This was nothing short of a miracle. In the past, detainees were able to bond out of the South Side office and while ICE still has the authority to do that, it is not done.  The fact that the Rapid Response Team was there made a world of difference. We were able to advocate for him and reunite him with his family at a critical time.”
Of course, such works of mercy are only possible because of the dedicated leadership of Monica Ruiz and Casa San Jose.  It is an honor to play even a small part.
Mary Nell Cummings is a lawyer with broad experience in regulatory compliance, advertising and a host of other legal aspects of healthcare products and services. She is an adjunct professor at Pitt Law and the director of its new new accelerated, fully on-line graduate certificate program in Health Care Compliance.  She also finds time to to volunteer pro bono as a lawyer, including with Casa San Jose. Here’s the link to her website.  


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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