By design, the entire litigation team at Mayerson & Associates has been carefully assembled from widely diverse, yet entirely complementary backgrounds. These backgrounds include significant commercial trial experience, service as a New York State Impartial Hearing Officer, as an attorney litigating on behalf of the New York City Department of Education and experience as a former special education teacher working for New York City in a public school District 75 “autism” program. Regular staff meetings give the firm’s attorneys and paralegals the opportunity to gain a unique insight—the ability to examine each problem through a variety of different lenses.
Gary S. Mayerson
Gary Mayerson is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In early 2000, Gary founded Mayerson & Associates as the very first civil rights law firm in the nation dedicated to representing individuals with autism and related developmental disorders. Gary speaks regularly at national conferences and major universities and has testified before Congress on the subject of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (“IDEIA”). At the invitation of the United Nations, Gary spoke on the subject of facilitating inclusive education. Gary is well published in the field and is the author of How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child (DRL Books 2005), the “ABA Litigation” chapter appearing in Dr. Ivar Lovaas’ book, Teaching Individuals With Developmental Delays, the “Legal Considerations” chapter appearing in the Second Edition of Dr. Donna Geffner’s book, Auditory Processing Disorders (2013), and the “Autism in the Courtroom” chapter appearing in the Fourth Edition of Dr. Fred R. Volkmar’s seminal treatise, Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (2014). Gary has been interviewed by the Today Show (NBC), Dan Rather (HDNet), Katie Couric, CNN, PBS, HLN, ABC, NPR, The Economist, New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, Congressional Quarterly Researcher and the New York Times, among other media. In 2016, after being peer-nominated and vetted across 12 factors by an attorney led research team, Gary was again named by Super Lawyers Magazine as one of the top attorneys in the New York metropolitan area. In addition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Gary is admitted to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Gary is responsible for more than sixty reported federal court decisions, including Deal v. Hamilton County, the very first autism case to ever reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Gary’s work also was instrumental in T.K. v. NYCDOE (unaddressed complaints about bullying as a “FAPE” deprivation), R.E. v. NYCDOE and C.F. v. NYCDOE (cases rejecting school district’s attempts to rely upon “impermissible retrospective evidence” at trial), T.M. v. Cornwall (least restrictive environment mandate as applied to ESY), L.B. v. Nebo School District (pertaining to “supported inclusion” and Congress’ “least restrictive environment” mandate), V.S. v. NYCDOE (parents have a procedural right to evaluate the school assignment) and Starego v. NJSIAA, a federal court settlement affording Anthony Starego, a 19-year-old high school placekicker with autism, an unprecedented fifth season of interscholastic competition (incredibly, that additional season had a storybook ending, with Anthony and his team going on to win the 2013 State Championship 26-15 after Anthony contributed points from two successful field goals!). Gary has served on the national board of Autism Speaks since its inception in 2005 and founded its Federal Legal Appeals Project, a pro bono initiative at the federal level. In addition, Gary serves on the Boards of JobPath, a not-for-profit based in Manhattan that is dedicated to securing and supporting meaningful employment opportunities for adults with autism, the Manhattan Childrens Center Foundation, and ALUT, Israel’s largest autism not-for-profit. Gary also serves on the Professional Advisory Board of the New England Center for Children (NECC), a residential school for students with autism located in Southborough, Massachusetts. Gary testified before the New York City Council in support of “Avonte’s Law,” a safety enhancement measure introduced by Councilmember Rob Cornegy that now provides an additional layer of protection for students with autism who have a propensity to wander. Last year, Gary and attorneys Maria McGinley and Jean Marie Brescia commenced a $500,000,000 federal lawsuit (styled as a class action) against the New York City Department of Education alleging that for years, the DOE has failed to properly assess and support older students for purposes of federally mandated vocational training and transition planning. The suit estimates that the affected class consists of tens of thousands of public school students. In July, 2015, Gary and attorneys Maria McGinley and Jacqueline DeVore won a landmark sexual abuse trial in the Connecticut federal district court where, after a two week trial, the jury found that a paraprofessional formerly employed by the Darien school system had sexually abused a twelve-year-old boy with Down Syndrome. In that case, following post-trial motion practice, the Court entered judgment against the paraprofessional for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees that, in the aggregate, amount to approximately $681,000. The judgment was paid in full.
Maria C. McGinley
Maria McGinley, a partner, is a graduate of New York Law School and joined Mayerson & Associates in 2009. Significantly, prior to law school, Maria was employed by the New York City Department of Education as a special education classroom teacher assigned to a 6:1:1 District 75 “autism” classroom. Maria also worked for a private agency in New York and New Jersey, providing early intervention services. While Maria very much enjoyed her work as a public school special education teacher, she struggled with the fact that many school-based programs were neither adequate nor appropriate to meet the individual needs of the students. Ultimately, that internal struggle is what prompted Maria to leave teaching and go to law school and Maria’s former experience as a NYCDOE educator is an invaluable asset to our clients.
At Mayerson & Associates, Maria continues to promote the rights and entitlements of individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. Maria is an expert litigator and has an excellent track record prevailing in due process cases at both the administrative and federal levels. Maria was a member of the trial team assembled in Doe v. Darien (federal jury returned a unanimous verdict finding that a special education paraprofessional sexually abused “John Doe,” a student with Down Syndrome). In S.A. v. New York City Department of Education, Maria was instrumental in persuading the federal district court to reverse the SRO and to award S.A. and his parents a 260 hour “bank” of parent training and counseling hours that S.A.’s parents needed and were entitled to. Most recently, Maria successfully argued T.Y. v. New York City Department of Education in the federal district court and persuaded the court to award full funding for T.Y.’s private school tuition, supplemental speech therapy, 1:1 paraprofessional and transportation costs. Maria has been an essential part of the appellate team in successful matters before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, including:
o T.K. v. New York City Department of Education, 810 F.3d 869 (2d Cir. 2016) (unaddressed bullying of student as FAPE deprivation);
o T.M. v. Cornwall Central School District, 752 F.3d 145 (2d Cir. 2014) (Congress’ “least restrictive environment” mandate applies to Extended School Year placements; school districts must consider the “full continuum” of placements);
o C.F. v. New York City Department of Education, 746 F.3d 68 (2d Cir. 2014) (Failure to offer student 1:1 instruction, parent training and an appropriate behavior plan deprived the student’s right to a FAPE);
o R.E. v. New York City Department of Education, 694 F.3d 167 (2d Cir. 2012) (“Retrospective” testimony about services that are not offered in the IEP document cannot be used to rehabilitate the school district’s recommendations);
o P.K. v. New York City Department of Education, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 10477 (2d Cir. 2013) (The school district’s IEP was substantively inadequate because it failed to provide sufficient 1:1 instruction and speech therapy; parents were awarded reimbursement and direct funding for student’s private school placement).
Maria works closely with Gary Mayerson on all aspects of firm management and supervision. Maria also supports the Autism Speaks Federal Legal Appeals Project, a pro bono initiative at the federal level. In Ermini v. Vittori, 758 F.3d 153 (2d Cir. 2014), Maria and Gary co-authored an amicus brief on behalf of Autism Speaks in a case involving an international custody dispute brought under the Hague Convention. The Second Circuit ultimately held that, despite a father’s wishes, his son with “severe” autism would remain in the United States with his mother and brother so that he might continue to receive ABA therapy and thus avoid the “grave risk of harm” that he would face if he were to return to Italy, a country where such services are not as readily available. Maria and Gary also co-authored an amicus brief in C.L. v. New York City Department of Education, 2014 WL 278405 (2d Cir. 2014), where the Second Circuit held that the school district failed to meet its burden to show how a 6:1:1 placement would be able to provide educational benefits to a student who required 1:1 instruction to learn.
Maria has authored many articles on a variety of special education topics and she regularly presents at local, national and international conferences as well as continuing legal education seminars. Maria also has been interviewed by the media regarding special education and safety issues. In addition to her work at the firm, Maria serves on the Board for the NJ Chapter of Autism Speaks. Maria also is the co-chair for the Autism Speaks Walk in North/Central NJ.
Jean Marie Brescia
Jean Marie Brescia, the firm’s Senior Litigating Attorney, is a graduate of Harvard Law School and is admitted to practice in New York and the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. After graduating from law school, Jean Marie worked as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell. From 1988 to 1994, Jean Marie was a staff attorney in the Civil Division of the Legal Aid Society in New York City and then an appellate attorney in its Juvenile Rights Division. Jean Marie received The Legal Aid Society’s Pro Bono Service Award for her work in the area of juvenile rights. Since 1995, Jean Marie has been an active New York impartial hearing officer (IHO), presiding over and deciding more than 500 special education due process hearings. In addition to her highly respected work as an IHO, Jean Marie has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at New York Law School, teaching Special Education Law and Practice. At Mayerson & Associates, Jean Marie litigates at all trial and appellate levels. Most recently, she was instrumental on the appellate work in T.K. v. DOE, a landmark “bullying” case decided by a unanimous panel of the Second Circuit on January 20, 2016. She also devotes a portion of her time to acting as a mentor to more junior attorneys and law interns. Jean Marie served for many years on the PTA in her community, focusing much of her work on ensuring adequate provision of educational resources to English language learners and economically underprivileged children.
Jacqueline DeVore (“Jackie”), a graduate of the City University of New York School of Law and the College of New Jersey, litigates matters at the administrative and federal levels. Jackie is admitted to practice in New York, New Jersey and the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York and the District Court of New Jersey. Jackie is a passionate advocate who is a zealous advocate for the rights of children and their families. Earlier in her career, Jackie worked as a community advocate for a New Jersey domestic violence non-profit agency. After graduating from law school, Jackie became an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, prosecuting cases in its Domestic Violence and Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Bureaus. After leaving the District Attorney’s Office, Jackie was hired as a litigator for the New York City Department of Education General Counsel’s Special Education Unit. Jackie was handpicked to join the Mayerson & Associates litigation team due to her excellent litigation and advocacy skills, as well as her demonstrable passion for advancing the rights of students with disabilities. Jackie has successfully litigated a number of “inclusion” cases, both in New York and in New Jersey. Such cases include Jackie’s work in Starego v. NJSIAA, where Anthony Starego, a 19-year-old student with autism, was awarded an unprecedented fifth season of competitive play as a starting placekicker on his school’s varsity football team. Jackie also was a member of the trial team in Doe v. Darien, et al. Jackie was awarded an NYU Revson Public Interest Fellowship and co-authored an article published in a British journal, Reproductive Health Matters. She also has lectured on special education topics and was honored as the keynote speaker at the 2010 County College of Morris’ Women Who Dare Conference and at a 2012 Women in Learning and Leadership event sponsored by The College of New Jersey.
Susan K. Wagner is a highly experienced lawyer and advocate, both at the trial and appellate levels. Susan graduated with honors from Barnard College and went on to receive her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law in 1994, winning the Archibald R. Murray Public Service Award. Susan is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey. During law school, Susan interned for the Office of the Attorney General for the State of New York, as well as for New York Supreme Court Justice Alfred H. Kleimanand the Internal Revenue Service. Susan also was a research assistant for the Columbia University School of Law’s Legislative Drafting Research Fund, providing assistance to The Human Genome Project. Immediately following law school, Susan began her legal career as an Assistant District Attorney in the King’s County District Attorney’s Office, prosecuting cases in its Domestic Violence and Appeals Bureaus. More recently, Susan was associated with the firms of Ziegler and Zemsky LLC, and Budd Larner, P.C., firms concentrating in family law. In her litigation role, Susan gained invaluable experience representing clients at hearings, trials, mediations, and arbitrations. Susan believes in giving back to the community. She volunteers her time to the Rachel Coalition, an organization dedicated to assisting victims of domestic violence.
Valerie Harris, both a Program Specialist and our Financial Administrator, has been with the firm since its inception in 2000. She holds a Master’s Degree from Florida State University, and was an adjunct professor at Marymount Manhattan College for fifteen years. Valerie is also a trained crisis counselor for children. She has 21 year old twin boys, one of whom is diagnosed with autism. Valerie has done extensive parent training and is also well-versed in the transition to residential programs, OPWDD, and the “aging out” process. Most recently, Valerie gave a presentation to the therapists and staff at HappyHour4Kids on the subject of communication between providers and parents.
Doris Fernandez, the firm’s Office Manager, joined Mayerson & Associates in late 2008, shortly after graduating from the City College of New York with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts. If you are calling the firm, Doris is likely to be the first person you will speak with. For many years prior to joining Mayerson & Associates, Doris worked in administration for Beth Israel Medical Center, working directly for its Chairman of Head and Neck Surgery. Doris is a busy and devoted mother of twin boys and has personal experience with the IEP process. Everyone loves Doris! Doris’ charisma and compassion, her bilingual proficiency in Spanish, and her unique ability to respond to our family’s needs and concerns is an invaluable asset to our practice.
Eric Tacher, the firm’s Reimbursement Specialist, graduated from Cornell University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Operations Research and Information Engineering. While at Cornell, Eric co-founded the Cornell Finance Club. Eric reports directly to the firm’s Financial Administrator and is primarily responsible for managing and processing all reimbursement/prospective funding submissions and payments with school districts.
Mauricio Bertone, the firm’s Chief Paralegal, graduated in 1995 from Sacred Heart University in Bauru, Sao Paulo, Brazil with a Bachelor’s degree in Systems Analysis. After moving to the United States, Mauricio became interested in the law. In 2002, Mauricio became certified in Paralegal Studies by New York University. Mauricio joined Mayerson & Associates in 2005 and today, as the firm’s Chief Paralegal, Mauricio is involved in all aspects of litigation, from supervising the other paralegals in hearing preparation efforts (assembling and disseminating disclosures, subpoena responses, etc.) to taking a lead role in pressing and documenting our day-to-day settlement discussions with the City.
Noelle Forbes joined Mayerson & Associates as a paralegal in September of 2014. Noelle received her B.A. in Political Science and Public Affairs from Syracuse University (2009) and went on to receive her J.D. from New York Law School (2013). Noelle is passionate about social justice and has interned with the New York City Council, as well as with South Brooklyn Legal Services. Noelle also had the opportunity to clerk with a Civil Court Judge before coming to the firm. Noelle is a member of the New York State Bar.
Sean LeVan, a paralegal, joined our team shortly after graduating from Marymount Manhattan College in May of 2013 with a B.A. in Communication Arts. Sean originally is from Southern California and has been living in New York City since his graduation. Sean supports and assists the paralegal unit, as well as our Financial Administrator.
Randy Richardson, now an Assistant Paralegal, first came to Mayerson & Associates in 2012 and works under the supervision of the firm’s Chief Paralegal and Office Manager. On April 2, 2015, World Autism Awareness Day, Randy spoke at the United Nations on the important subject of employment.