Best of Cumberland County 2024

Best Lawyer, Best Law Firm, and Best Specialty Law Firm.

Much gratitude goes out to the folks who voted for us in the 2024 Best of Cumberland County contest, selecting our firm and our managing partner and co-founder, Attorney John A. “Jay” Abom as “The Best!”

We believe the accolade reflects our fierce dedication to advocating for family, criminal law and estate law clients – a commitment that hasn’t wavered in the 23 years since the firm founding.

Attorney Abom and the late Attorney Jason P. Kutulakis opened our doors in downtown Carlisle in 2001, not long after the two met in a courtroom while on opposite sides of a criminal jury trial.

Abom & Kutulakis
Attorneys Jay Abom and Jason Kutulakis signing their partnership agreement in 2001.

They established a proud reputation of legal excellence, consistently attracted skilled attorneys to the practice, and established a dedicated and experienced legal support staff.

As the firm has grown, legal services have expanded and our team of attorneys now practice comprehensive criminal defense and appellate law in state and federal cases; divorce, custody and child protective service investigation matters; as well as estate administration law.

Attorney John A. Abom

Jay Abom continues a robust criminal defense practice and was recently elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL). He is a Pennsylvania Supreme Court-certified death penalty attorney.

In recent years, Attorneys Craig E. Kauzlarich and Stephanie L. Cesare were named firm partners, and the firm grew its attorney staff to seven while also expanding our legal support staff.

Our firm’s aim is to continue to strive to be the best resource for our clients, many of whom have experienced difficulties, suffered trauma and faced great uncertainty in their lives.














Welcome aboard new Summer Associates

Abom & Kutulakis welcomes Ethan Bulger and Maia Mash, both rising 3Ls, to the firm as summer associates.

Ethan Bulger, Summer Law Associate


Ethan Bulger hails from Danville and split his undergraduate studies between Liverpool Hope University in the UK and Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove as a Political Science Major. As a student at Penn State Dickinson Law, Ethan has worked as an intern in the Adams County District Attorney’s Office, the Dauphin County Public Defender’s Office, and as a server at Red Robin.

After graduation, he aims to practice criminal defense. In his spare time, Ethan enjoys playing the guitar, soccer, and hiking.


Maia Mash, Summer Law Associate

Maia Mash is from Gilbertsville and graduated from Lock Haven University in 2020 with a major in Political Science.

Last summer, the Widener University Commonwealth Law student interned with Legal Aid of Southeastern PA in their Chester County office. Last semester, she was an intern at Widener’s Central Pennsylvania Law Clinic.

Following law school, Maia hopes to practice family law. Fun fact: Maia was a competitive gymnast and has coached competitive gymnastics.

Helping child relatives in CPS?

Extended family members of a child at risk of neglect or abuse may now have a voice in Child Protective Services proceedings that decide what is best for that child.

Thanks to Pennsylvania’s Act 48, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other extended family members who are not currently providing care for the child have the right to be considered as kinship caregivers.

Amendment to Judicial Procedure

Previously, the opinions of these extended family members were not necessarily considered unless they were already providing care to a child or children at risk of neglect or of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The new law gives them the right to receive notice of hearings and to present evidence and testimony as to their qualifications as kinship resources.

Lawmakers recognized that kin of vulnerable children in Child Protective Services may be best suited to help their young relatives.

Living in the homes of family or other trusted adults has been shown to minimize trauma and increase positive outcomes, but fewer than 42 percent of children receiving care in the state are placed in such homes, according to the lawmaker who sponsored the amendment.

“No child should be unnecessarily placed in a county youth agency,” state Rep. Rick Krajewski said.

And yet, that is what almost happened in a recent case overseen by our Attorney Shannon Costa.

A maternal grandmother had been approved as an interstate kinship resource for her granddaughter, who was in the custody of Lancaster County CYS. But CYS denied the grandmother’s request to have her grandchild transferred from a non-kinship foster home to her own home in Tampa, Fla.

Thanks to Act 48, the grandmother gained the right to give testimony on her qualifications to provide kinship care. The court then determined that it was in the girl’s best interest to relocate – with her mother – to the maternal grandmother’s home.

How Can Kin Be Considered as a Resource?

The new law, which took effect in February 2024, defines a ‘Potential Kinship Care Resource’ as:

“An individual who meets the requirements to be an emergency caregiver and has expressed a willingness to be a kinship caregiver for a dependent child.”

It gives adult relatives the right to receive notice of child dependency hearings, as well as a chance to be heard during the hearings, as to their qualifications to provide kinship care. In fact, Act 48 requires the county agency or juvenile probation department to seek out the opinions of individuals connected to family-finding and kinship care programs before and during the dependency process.

As well, the new law requires that timely notice of a dependency hearing be given to potential kindship care resources – in addition to the child’s foster parent, pre-adoptive parent, and relative providing care for the child. The court may decide at that dependency hearing, or at a separate hearing, whether the Potential Kinship Care Resource qualifies to provide Kinship Care.

Our team of lawyers at Abom & Kutulakis have experience and knowledge handling dependency, investigations, and all CYS matters. Contact us to set up an appointment to discuss how we can help you be considered as a kinship care resource under Act 48.

Navigating Military Divorce?

When facing the complexities of a military divorce, you need a legal team that understands the unique challenges involved. At Abom & Kutulakis L.L.C., we provide comprehensive legal assistance to military personnel and their spouses to navigate through divorce proceedings in Carlisle, PA, and surrounding areas.

Military Divorce Lawyer in Carlisle, PA

As experienced military divorce lawyers, we recognize the complexity of military life and the impact it can have on divorce proceedings. From issues related to deployment schedules to the division of military pensions and benefits, our attorneys have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through every step of the process.

Our firm offers a wide range of services tailored to the needs of military families.

Legal Counsel and Representation

Whether you’re initiating divorce proceedings or responding to a divorce petition, our skilled military divorce attorneys will provide personalized legal guidance and representation to protect your rights and interests.

Asset Division

Dividing assets in a military divorce can be particularly complex, especially when it comes to pensions, retirement benefits, and other military-specific assets. We’ll work diligently to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of marital property, taking into account both state laws and military regulations.

Child Custody and Support

If children are involved in your divorce, our attorneys will advocate for your parental rights and work towards achieving a custody and visitation arrangement that serves the best interests of your children. We’ll also assist in determining child support obligations in accordance with Pennsylvania guidelines.

Military Benefits

As former military service members ourselves, we understand the significance of military benefits such as healthcare, housing allowances, and survivor benefits. Our team will help you navigate the complexities of military benefit entitlements and ensure that your rights are protected during divorce proceedings.

At Abom & Kutulakis L.L.C., we are committed to providing compassionate and effective legal representation to military families in Carlisle, PA, and beyond. Let us guide you through this challenging time with professionalism, integrity, and dedication. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable military divorce attorney.

Honor comes from Cumberland County community

The law firm of Abom & Kutulakis has once again been named a Cumberland County “Best.”

Firm owner and co-founder John A. “Jay” Abom acknowledged the community support that led to being named the 2023 Best Specialty Law Firm in the annual contest hosted by The Sentinel newspaper.

2023 Best of Cumberland

Attorney Abom said he is grateful that efforts to provide Cumberland County with legal services in the areas of criminal defense, investigations, family law, children and youth matters, and estate administration have been confirmed with the award.

The ‘specialty’ category was added in 2022 making Abom & Kutulakis only the second recipient of the accolade. The 2023 winner list also cited both the firm and Attorney Abom as “Favorites” for 2023.

Attorney John A. "Jay" Abom
John A. “Jay” Abom, Esq.


Presidential Pardon – Marijuana Cases

Some federally-charged marijuana convictions have received clemency under President Joe Biden’s pardon, announced on Oct. 6, 2022.

The Presidential Pardon applies to more than 6,500 federal convictions on simple marijuana possession. Officials said no one is currently serving a federal prison term for simple marijuana possession charges alone.

The pardon does not affect state-prosecuted convictions for simple possession or federal trafficking offenses.

Convictions for Simple Possession of marijuana have been pardoned

The United States Justice Department will supervise the issuance of certificates to those eligible for a pardon. The document, which will be available upon completing an application and receiving Justice Department approval, will state they have been officially pardoned for their crime. The Department will post the application form on its Office of the Pardon Attorney website as soon as it is available.

Under federal law, simple possession – meaning there is no intent to distribute the drug – remains punishable by up to a year in prison with a fine up to $1,000.

For more information, the Justice Department addresses questions about the pardon in this FAQ.


Cumberland County’s Best… Again!

Abom & Kutulakis has been named Cumberland County’s Best Law Firm in 2022, and firm co-founder John A. “Jay” Abom has been named Best Lawyer. The accolades come following voting by the public in the annual Best of Cumberland County contest. It is the firm’s fourth consecutive appearance on the Best Of list compiled by The Sentinel newspaper.

We are grateful for the acknowledgment of our efforts to provide Cumberland County with legal services in the areas of Criminal Defense, Investigations, Family Law, Children & Youth, and Estate Administration. The skilled attorneys and experienced support staff at Abom & Kutulakis are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcome for our clients.

Best Lawyer winner Attorney Abom is a skilled litigator defending those charged with crimes in state and federal court and is an advisor to clients in matters of wills and estate administration. He is a death penalty-certified attorney who has succeeded in keeping clients off death row.

Attorney John A. "Jay" Abom
John A. “Jay” Abom, Esq.

A former Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney, he prosecuted serious felonies, conducted grand jury investigations, assisted law enforcement with crime scenes, supervised the ARD program, and worked closely with lay and expert witnesses.

He was recognized as the 2020 Cumberland County Bar Association’s Distinguished Member Award. He has been designated a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer yearly since 2011 and is a National Board of Trial Advocacy-Certified Criminal Trial Advocate. Jay also serves as a Hearing Officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Jay is a graduate of Brown University and The Dickinson School of Law. He lives in Carlisle and is the solicitor for the Downtown Carlisle Association, a member of Carlisle’s Historical and Architectural Review Board, a member of the Cumberland County Historical Society, a coach for the Cumberland Valley Rugby Club and former longtime volunteer with Cumberland Valley School District’s Eagle Foundation.

Welcome Summer ’22 Law Clerk

Vishal Bajpai, a Penn State Dickinson Law School third-year student, has joined the Abom & Kutulakis team for the summer. He assists attorneys with legal research and writing.

Vishal Bajpai is a third year student at Penn State Dickinson Law.

Vishal is a Gettysburg College graduate with a degree in economics. He was born in India, grew up in California, and moved to Carlisle from Harrisburg, where he kept busy running for City Council and earning a paralegal certificate from Harrisburg Area Community College.


Longtime Legal Pro Joins Firm

Attorney Todd “T.R.” Williams, Jr.

Abom & Kutulakis welcomes Attorney Todd R. Williams, Jr., to the firm. “T.R.” brings close to 30 years’ experience in defending, prosecuting and adjudicating criminal and civil cases in the region.

He practices criminal defense including traffic citations and protection from abuse petitions and violations, family law cases, and wills and estate administration.

T.R. is a former Chief Deputy District Attorney with Franklin County where he spent 13 years prosecuting criminal cases involving charges ranging from DUI to rape and sexual assault to homicides, as well as supervising the Franklin County Drug Task Force. Previously, he served as an assistant Franklin County public defender.

The third-generation attorney is also a former Franklin County Magisterial District Judge, a position he held for more than 13 years while presiding over criminal preliminary arraignments, preliminary hearings, summary criminal and traffic trials, civil trials, landlord tenant cases and local ordinance violation cases.

T.R. is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and The Dickinson School of Law.

Craig E. Kauzlarich is CJA Panel pick

Senior Associate Attorney Craig E. Kauzlarich has been reappointed to the United States Criminal Justice Act Panel through which he represents federal criminal defendants before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorney Kauzlarich has been appointed to the United States Criminal Justice Act Panel

He is one of nine Harrisburg area attorneys to be appointed to a three-year term on the Panel. Among other qualifications, panel attorneys must be up-to-date on federal defense law developments, versed in electronic discovery methods, and meet ongoing training requirements under the Criminal Justice Act enacted in 1964.

Panel appointments are for three years.

Attorney Kauzlarich has practiced law since 2008. He leads the law firm’s appellate practice, authoring appeals to Pennsylvania’s Superior Court, Commonwealth Court, and Supreme Court and federal courts of appeal. Craig also represents clients in post-conviction motions, pardon applications and expungements.