MSPB Moment: Whistleblower Appeals & Hostile Work Environment

Posted on: January 10th, 2017

Tommie G. Savage, a Contract Specialist with the U. S. Army Engineer and Support Center in Huntsville, Alabama, reported what she believed to be illegal and improper contracting activities beginning in late 2006.  Her concerns were validated by a subsequent audit in 2007.  In 2008, she made additional disclosures about alleged violations of the Federal Acquisition regulations.  In 2009, she filed an EEO complaint for hostile work environment. She was terminated for AWOL, excessive absences, and unavailability to report for duty in 2009, and filed an EEO complaint.  In 2011, the Agency issued a final agency decision and she filed a timely appeal.  She requested and received a dismissal without prejudice to file a whistleblowing retaliation complaint pursuant to the Whistleblowing Protection Act (WPA) with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and included a claim of hostile work environment.

The Merit Systems Protection Board held that “the creation of a hostile work environment is itself a personnel action for purposes of the WPA.”  Savage v. Dept. of the Army, 122 MSPR 612 , ¶ 23 (2015).

MSPB attorneys of Kitchens, New, Cleghorn LLC can help your case before the Merit Systems Protection Board. Contact us today.


Welcoming Jamie Woodard, Esq.

Posted on: August 10th, 2016

The Law Firm of Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC is pleased to announce the addition of Mr. Jamie Woodard to our firm as an Of counsel attorney.

Woodard, Jamie

Jamie’s practice focuses on matters in the business litigation and intellectual property spaces, but he is a trial lawyer at heart.  Jamie’s cases run the gamut from whistleblower investigations to patent infringement lawsuits.  A large amount of Jamie’s experience over the last 10 years has been in the Intellectual Property space, as well as Employment and Fiduciary Law.

Jamie graduated summa cum laude from Mercer University in 2000, with a degree in Political Science as well as one in Communication & Theater Arts. In 2003, he graduated cum laude from Mercer Law School where he was both an editor of the Law Review and a member of the Moot Court Board.  Jamie began practicing law in Atlanta in 2003 at Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, LLP, and later joined Wellborn & Wallace, LLC becoming a named partner in Wellborn, Wallace & Woodard, LLC in 2008.

Jamie is a native of Waycross, Georgia, and a leader in Atlanta’s LGBTQ community.  Since 2013, Jamie has provided volunteer governmental affairs work with the Trevor Project, a national organization focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth aged 13-24.  Jamie is also a member of the Georgia Equality committee on legislative officials and judicial nominees where he assists Georgia Equality in making recommendations as to endorsements of legislative candidates and judicial nominees/candidates.  Since 2005, Jamie has volunteered with the Georgia Intrastate Moot Court Competition.

Jamie is an avid reader, a self-described “political junkie” and a “geek of all trades”. He says that he is “full of useless trivia” and enjoys cooking and being out on the water.

Jamie came to Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC “because I knew my clients would be supported here, and that I would have the freedom to expand my business.” Jamie’s experience will complement and expand Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC’s capacity to provide quality business and personal legal services to our clients and the broader Atlanta community.

Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC’s practice areas also include business and corporate law, employment law, and family law including LGBT legal services.

Please join us in welcoming Jamie to our Kitchens New Cleghorn, LLC team.


How to Modify Your Driver’s License in Georgia

Posted on: May 2nd, 2016

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If you’re interested in having your Georgia driver’s license or state ID changed to better reflect how you identify, the state allows you to modify both your name (Official Georgia Code Section § 19-12-1 through § 19-12-4) and sex designation (Official Georgia Code § 31-10-23(e)). While it’s not as simple as walking into a Department of Driver Services office and making a few changes, Georgia law makes it fairly easy for folks to make sure their identity is accurately reflected in state documents.

To change a name on a driver’s license, you will first need to file a petition for a legal name change in the Superior Court of the county where you live. This is typically about a two-month process that requires you to file a petition and affidavit stating that you are not seeking to change you name in an attempt to defraud others, then publishing a legal notice of your name change in the county legal organ (usually a newspaper). Once the notice has run for four weeks and the judge signs an order granting the name change, you will simply need to take a certified copy of the judge’s order to the DDS office to have your license updated.

A separate legal action is required to amend one’s sex designation, but again Georgia law makes the process relatively simple. You will need to file a petition to amend your birth certificate in the Superior Court for the county in which you live, but you are required to include a certified letter from your doctor attesting that you have undergone irreversible sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

With this petition and letter from a physician, a judge can sign an order amending the sex designation on your birth certificate as early as a month after you file the petition, although it may take a little longer depending on the county in which you reside. A certified copy of the judge’s order amending your birth certificate can be used at the Office of Vital Records, Department of Driver Services facilities, and any other government agency where your sex designation needs to be updated.

NOTES:

  • Transgender applicants do NOT have to have undergone any type of surgery or treatment to apply for a name change.
  • A name change and a sex designation change are two separate actions, and require separate court petitions to be filed.

 


Legally Changing Your ‘Sex’ on a Georgia Birth Certificate

Posted on: April 17th, 2016

Despite its (rightly earned) conservative reputation, Georgia has a surprisingly liberal policy for changing sex designation on birth certificates and other vital records. According to section § 31-10-23(e) of the Official Georgia Code, a person’s sex designation can be amended on his or her birth certificate, “Upon receipt of a certified copy of a court order indicating the sex of an individual born in this state has been changed by surgical procedure.” The person applying for the name change in Georgia is required to submit a certified letter from their doctor or physician stating that the individual has undergone irreversible sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). If you have not undergone SRS, you are not eligible to change the sex category on your birth certificate.

Transgender sex change

However, applicants who have undergone SRS simply need to file a petition to amend your birth certificate with the Superior Court in their home county. The petition must include a Verification from the applicant swearing that all of the information in the petition is accurate, along with the aforementioned letter from a physician attesting to SRS.

Once the petition is filed, the judge may issue a Final Order granting the change in sex designation without the applicant having to appear in court. Some judges in Georgia, particularly those in more conservative counties of the state, might require an applicant to appear in court, which may add to the stress and cost of this process, but shouldn’t interfere with the end result.

Once a Final Order has been issued approving the change of one’s sex designation, you will need to take a certified copy of the Final Order, along with your driver’s license, to the Georgia Office of Vital Records, which will officially change the sex designation on your birth certificate.

NOTE: To amend the sex designation of a birth certificate in Georgia, the applicant must have been born in this state. Also note, a name change and a sex designation change are two separate actions, and require two separate court petitions to be filed.

 


Meet Our New Paralegal, Mia Shaw

Posted on: April 4th, 2016

Our Atlanta law firm hires only the most talented and competent individuals. We often get compliments on our attorneys and their superior legal work, but we also get compliments on our amazing support staff. Mia Shaw, our new paralegal, joined our staff several months ago. She helps us work with our clients and we wanted those of you who don’t know her yet to get a chance to meet her.

Meet Mia Shaw

Meet Mia Shaw

How long have you been at KNC?

Mia: I joined KNC in July 2015 as a contractor. It was a good fit and in November, I was invited to join the firm as a full-time employee.

What type of work have you done in the past?

Prior to joining the dynamic KNC staff, I worked as a paralegal throughout Atlanta, primarily dealing with Federal employment disputes.

Where are you from?

I am originally from Florence, South Carolina. Before I moved to Atlanta, I studied in Washington, D.C.

Tell us about your family.

I am the proud mother of a fabulous daughter and two awesome sons!

What is the best part about working at KNC?

The best part of working at KNC is the fact that every day is a new learning experience for me. I never leave the office without knowing something that I did not know when I arrived that morning.

What do you like most about the KNC clients?

Every interaction with a KNC client is a new adventure. Our clients are a diverse group of people with diverse legal needs and it is always exciting to be trusted with the important legal matters that will impact their lives for many years to come.

What do you like most about the KNC staff?

I like the atmosphere that the KNC staff fosters. I feel that I am in an amazingly supportive environment and that we are all working together for a common goal.

Thanks, Mia! We are so happy to have you on the Kitchens New Cleghorn staff. Welcome.


LGBT Families Protected by SCOTUS

Posted on: March 27th, 2016

When a lesbian couple had a child through artificial insemination, the non-birth mother adopted the child in Georgia. The couple then moved to Alabama and later split. The birth mother wanted to end the parental rights of the adoptive mother by saying that Alabama didn’t have to recognize the Georgia adoption. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with her and refused to recognize the Georgia adoption saying that Georgia should have never allowed an adoption by a same-sex couple.

In an unprecedented ruling, the United States Supreme Court, on March 7, 2016, summarily reversed the Alabama Supreme Court decision. OnSCOTUS protects LGBT familiese of the attorneys for the adoptive parent, Cathy Sakimura, wrote, “It was unanimous, with no dissenting opinion from any justice… sending the strongest possible message rejecting the Alabama Supreme Court’s attempt to unsettle the stability of adoptions by LGBT parents.”

The Alabama ruling is unique in that it was the first time in the history of our nation that a state failed to recognize the adoption of a child that was done in another state. Knowing that allowing that type of decision to stand risked creating disharmony (and even chaos) in our legal system, the United States Supreme Court had to step in and reverse the decision. Otherwise other lower courts might similarly completely disregard the parental rights of adoptive LGBT parents.

In its ruling, the US Supreme Court summed it up this way: “A State may not disregard the judgment of a sister State because it disagrees with the reasoning underlying the judgment or deems it to be wrong on the merits.” In other words, just because you don’t like it doesn’t give you the right to say that it doesn’t exist.

This unanimous decision sends a crystal-clear message that same sex parents are entitled to equal protection under the law.

 

 


Need Help Finding The Best Atlanta Lawyers?

Posted on: February 25th, 2016

Do Your Homework!

When people in our area have a legal need, they usually start by asking who the best Atlanta lawyers are. After all, nobody wants someone who isn’t at the top of their game. We’ve all heard horror stories about incompetent lawyers and the damage they can do. Since clients are usually asked to pay for the work up front, it’s wise to find out ahead of time who the best Atlanta lawyers really are.

Best Atlanta LawyersLook For These Qualities:

  1. A Good Reputation – The proof is in the pudding. Do your research and see if they have any complaints filed against them or are under review by the Bar association.
  2. Experience – Nothing can take the place of having years of experience under your belt. Not only does it equip the lawyer to know how to handle different cases, but knowing other lawyers and judges can help in having a positive outcome.
  3. Continuing Education – It’s no small feat to have a law degree. But just as important is for a lawyer to stay updated on changes in the law. Make sure your lawyer participates in continuing education through classes, seminars and special training.
  4. Volunteerism – Why is this important? Because the best Atlanta lawyers are going to care about the community that they live in. They will spend their talents helping clients as well as their community. They will also understand that they have valuable skills that they can share to improve the lives of those around them and be generous with those skills.

Here in our Atlanta law firm our reputation speaks for itself. Our lawyers have decades of combined experience. We value continuing education and all of our lawyers serve in the community in a variety of ways. When you want the best in Atlanta, call Kitchens New Cleghorn.


What Is The Best Way Find An Adoption Attorney Near Me?

Posted on: February 11th, 2016

Finding An Adoption Attorney In Atlanta – One only needs to type in the phrase adoption attorneys near me to see a list of law firms pop up. They may or may not have experienced lawyers ready to help guide a client in the adoption process. The most important thing that a person or couple can do when searching for an adoption attorney is to check their level of experience to ensure that the process goes flawlessly.

Adoption

The six types of adoption in Georgia are:

  1. Public or private agency adoptions – this is where the State of Georgia or a licensed private agency places the child with the adoptive parents.
  2. Adoptions by third parties – this is done by someone who is not a stepparent or a relative adopts the child. These adoptions do not involve an agency. This is typically where foster parents or other caregivers adopt the child.
  3. Stepparent adoptions – this is when a stepparent steps in when a biological parent has forfeited their rights to the child and then adopts the child.
  4. Adoptions by relatives – this is when a relative from this child’s extended family (grandparent, aunt, uncle, or a sibling of the child adopts the child. The child may be related to the person adopting the child either by blood or by marriage.
  5. Adoptions by foreign decree – this is when the child has already been adopted in another country. The child must have a valid visa.
  6. Adult adoptions – this is rare but still happens and takes place when the person to be adopted is already a legal adult (over 18).

The next time you start to type adoption attorneys near me, be sure that you remember that a successful adoption begins with choosing the right lawyer. The attorneys at Kitchens New Cleghorn are ready to help you add to your family.

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Four Ways to Run up a Divorce Bill

Posted on: January 19th, 2016

Divorce Bill

Clients at our Atlanta divorce practice often ask for ways that they can keep their divorce bill to a minimum. We do have set fees but there are several things that clients can do to keep their costs down. Our paralegal, Ryan Lee, came up with a list of the top 4 ways that clients often run up their divorce bill and shares tips for how they can prevent that from happening.

  1. They allow their emotions to cause them to lose sight of the big picture: getting divorced and moving forward. They may end up paying a lawyer $2,000 to fight over a $200 painting. It’s not worth it.

TIP: Ask yourself if you’re arguing over something really important to you or are you just frustrated with your soon-to-be ex and just don’t want to let them “win.” Adjust accordingly.

  1. They are unorganized. This comes to light when they submit documents or financial information. If they simply hand us documents with no sorting or organization, then they will be paying us to organize for them, which is much more expensive than if they did it themselves.

TIP: Be sure that all of the documents you turn over to your lawyer are sorted and organized.

  1. They call their lawyer over minor issues, or simply to vent. They forget that they are billed any time they speak to their attorneys or staff, and so some issues they can probably work through on their own without incurring fees.

TIP: You should determine whether it’s something worth involving an attorney, or whether they simply have hurt feelings.

  1. They are unresponsive. Sometimes, clients will avoid attorney calls or e-mails in the belief that if they do not respond, they will not incur fees. However, if an attorney or paralegal calls requesting information, it might be something that can be resolved in two minutes, costing the client only a few dollars. However, if the law firm has to call the client Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. about the same issue, then the client is being charged for each of those attempts to reach him/her and their divorce bill goes up.

TIP: Return all calls from your lawyer as soon as possible so they don’t need to call you again.

Try to stay focused on getting the divorce over with and moving forward so you’re not paying for emotional decisions. You can also rely on your friends and family for emotional support so you aren’t being billed to vent to your attorney. In addition, try to be as organized and responsive as possible. Work with your lawyer to make things go smoothly and remember that your new life is just ahead.


January is Divorce Month

Posted on: January 12th, 2016

Divorce in January

It is a well-documented phenomenon that January is divorce month, seeing an estimated one-third jump in filings when compared to other months in the year. There are many reasons why people decide to seek the advice of an attorney and, ultimately, file for a divorce, in the month of January. In our Atlanta law practice, we notice that our clients have some similarities in why they want to file in January – “divorce month.”

  1. Couples who have been thinking about a divorce toward the end of the year tend to wait until the holidays are over before they start what can sometimes be a stressful process. This is especially common with our clients who have children. They want their children to have “one last holiday as a family” before they decide to pull the plug. This makes January an ideal time to file for a divorce.
  2. People tend to view the New Year as a time to start with a clean slate. As a new year rolls in and resolutions are made, people are more likely to take actual steps (such as making an appointment to consult with a lawyer) in order to bring about the changes that they feel need to be made in their life.
  3. Holidays can bring about conflict in some marriages. Sometimes, there is a greater amount of stress around the holidays due to travel, family gathering conflicts and the additional financial strain that the gift-giving season can add to already difficult budgets. These events can be the catalyst necessary to end the marriage for already disgruntled partners.
  4. Spending more time with family and friends around the holidays can reveal much-needed support. When people are reminded that they have people in their lives to be a part of their support network, they feel safer making big changes like a divorce. They may also have the time to speak with their support network during holiday visits to let family and friends know of the upcoming divorce plans.

This month, our law office is experiencing a surge of divorce cases. If you are considering a divorce, or are even just wondering the ways that a divorce might impact you, it is important that you speak with one of our attorneys so you will be prepared for possible eventualities. 2016 can be your best year ever.


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