2/03/2010

Zakh Price's Lawyer Offers A Statement

This may be found on Zakh's facebook page.

As some people have raised questions about monies that are raised and being sent in to my law office and/or paid via PayPal towards Zakh's defense fund, and have implied those funds are being used for some type of "scam," this memo is meant to clear the air. Initially, let me say that all funds submitted as a result of the posting, pay pal account, or from any source derived from people who heard about this story via the Internet have been placed in my IOLTA Trust Account and those funds are being utilized for Zakh's representation. I am currently representing Zakh on various matters: a criminal case in Juvenile Court arising from an incident at the school; a FINS (Family in Need of Services) case, and a Due Process Hearing which I initiated to stay Zakh's placement and address his deprivation of a Free Appropriate Public Education. Carole Reynolds supplied a $5000 retainer fee to me initially which I required, which funds I later learned were borrowed from a family member. I subsequently received funds paid via pay pal to Carole and which were sent by various people directly to my law office. These funds to date total $4,220.00.


As you might imagine, Zakh's family is poor and could otherwise not afford my legal representation had it not been for the generosity of people everywhere supporting this family. In Arkansas, unfortunately, you will not find but only a handful of attorneys that will handle cases such as Zakh's. In fact, of the 15 Due Process Complaints lodged with the ADE this school year, I believe I have filed 13 of them. It is my experience that our P&A in Arkansas does not represent cases such as Zakh's -either on the educational deprivation or criminal issues. As you can surely guess, a lack of attorneys willing to take cases = difficulty and often an impossibility for Parents of children with disabilities to afford to advocate for their children. Part of the reason I feel Arkansas attorneys are unwilling to take these types of cases is 1) you have billable hours that you must spend and be willing to wait to get paid or never get paid for; and 2) the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is very pro District and has held that expert witness fees are not recoverable costs in a Due Process Hearing. Therefore, in Arkansas, Districts are very successful (and the Fort Smith School District is GREAT at this) at strong arming and bullying parents - especially those like Zakh's parents- who have very little financial resources.


 
The money raised so far and any money received will go towards pursuing 1) the resolution of the criminal charges; 2) an appropriate education for Zakh through a Due Process Hearing (including compensatory services); and a resolution of the FINS Petition. Naturally, in a case like Zakh's where I have the District specifically stating that their "purpose in placing Zakh in the court system is for leverage against the Parent," and I have the Fort Smith School District passing along intimate knowledge and complaints about Zakh's educational program directly to the judge who will ultimately hear the criminal case because Federal Law prohibits them from making modifications, the costs of legal services are escalated. I assure you that every cent given towards Zakh's legal fund is being used appropriately and for the most dire of needs. For example, I am foregoing payment of my fees as much as possible to conserve the amounts raised for expert witnesses that will be needed in the criminal and due process cases. Should you need further information, or have a specific question about your donation, I will be most happy to answer it. For the time being, please know that if you have given money to this cause, it is much appreciated and is being put to good use! theresa@niswangerlawfirm.com.

3 comments:

Adelaide Dupont said...

Hooray!

Now how do we raise the last 15%?

KWombles said...

New blog posts on it?

davidbrown said...

Completely off-topic, but I got my copy of "Zombieland" yesterday. I think Columbus could fit on the "spectrum".