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.

Law Clerks Enhance Legal Services

Two law clerks have joined the Abom & Kutulakis firm for the summer of 2021.

Hunter Merideth
Duquesne University School of Law third-year student Hunter Merideth is a summer 2021 clerk for Abom & Kutulakis

Hunter Merideth, a rising third year at Duquesne University School of Law, is a resident of Shippensburg and completed his undergraduate degree at Shippensburg University.

While attending school, Merideth served an elected term on the Shippensburg Area School Board.

Dennis Scoggin, second-year student at Penn State Dickinson Law joins Abom & Kutulakis as a summer law clerk

Californian Dennis Scoggin is a rising second year law student at Penn State Dickinson Law in Carlisle, where he is treasurer of the student bar association.

Scoggin earned his undergraduate degree from Campbell University following his service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Merideth and Scoggin will assist the firm’s criminal defense, family law and estate administration attorneys in legal research and the drafting of memos and orders, enhancing legal services for clients.


Criminal Justice Panel Appointments

Firm founder John A. “Jay” Abom and Senior Associate Attorney Brian P. Platt were recently appointed to the United States Criminal Justice Act Panel.

Firm founder John A. “Jay” Abom begins his 20th year as a Criminal Justice Act Panel attorney for federal criminal clients.

As panel attorneys, they represent indigent federal criminal defendants before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

This begins Attorney Abom’s twentieth year as a panel attorney. He was first appointed in 2001. It is the first appointment for Attorney Platt.

Senior Associate Attorney Brian P. Platt has been appointed to the Criminal Justice Act Panel.

Senior Associate Attorneys Craig E. Kauzlarich and Stephanie L. Cesare were previously appointed and also serve as Criminal Justice Act Panel attorneys for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

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.

Medical Marijuana While on Probation

A county in Pennsylvania overstepped when it enacted a policy that punished those on probation who used lawful Medical Marijuana. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in the Middle District ruled that judges and probation officers in Lebanon County may not deny those on probation access to Medical Marijuana or punish them for its use.

Lebanon County officials had claimed, among other arguments, that some individuals under court supervision have a history of marijuana abuse; and, that medical marijuana is not accessed with a prescription but is only a medical recommendation.

Lebanon had also been requiring people on probation with legally-obtained Medical Marijuana cards to testify at a hearing as to their medical need before those probationers could continue treatment.

The state Supreme Court said those probationers couldn’t be punished or denied use of Medical Marijuana. The Court said that county officials could verify the validity of a probationer’s Medical Marijuana card through the state Department of Health.

Inhaling the vapors of heated forms of marijuana is among lawful forms of accessing Medical Marijuana.

Pennsylvania approved the use of medical marijuana in 2016 for those suffering from cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and other disorders and illnesses whose medical providers issued a certification of medical need.

The drug is provided at a limited number of licensed dispensaries, in specified forms, and only to those with state-provided Medical Marijuana identification cards.






Sexual Discrimination Includes LGBT

Firing someone because they are gay or transgender is a violation of federal law, according to a new ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court said gay and transgender employees are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex.

The landmark ruling came on June 15, 2020, with the Court stating, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

Firing an employee for being gay or transgender is against the law.

Employers must be cognizant of the rights of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers in making disciplinary decisions and terminating employment.

The Court heard arguments in “Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia” in October, 2019. Gerald Bostock and other individuals claimed they experienced unlawful sex discrimination because they had been fired for being gay or transgender.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch agreed that an employer violates rules against sex discrimination by intentionally firing an employee based in part on sex.

Gorsuch wrote: “It makes no difference if other factors besides the plaintiff’s sex contributed to the decision or that the employer treated women as a group the same when compared to men as a group.”

He wrote that, “…homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex. Not because homosexuality and transgender status are related to sex in some vague sense or because discrimination on these bases has some disparate impact on one sex or another, but because to discriminate on these grounds requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex.”

“When an employer fires an employee because she is homosexual or transgender, two causal factors may be in play — both the  individual’s  sex  and  something  else (the  sex  to which the individual is attracted or with which the individual identifies). But Title VII doesn’t care. If an employer would not have discharged an employee but for that individual’s sex, the statute’s causation standard is met, and liability may attach,” Gorsuch wrote.

The ruling affirmed judgments of the Second and Sixth Circuits and reversed a judgement of the Eleventh Circuit. Justices Samuel A. Alito and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented.

10 Years as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer

Abom & Kutulakis is pleased to announce that four of its lawyers have been named to the 2020 Pennsylvania Super Lawyer list.

This is the tenth straight year that firm owner John A. “Jay” Abom has been selected as a Super Lawyer, a distinction that goes to 5 percent or fewer of Pennsylvania attorneys each year.

Three Senior Associate Attorneys have been named Super Lawyer Rising Stars by the Thomson Reuters rating service.

Attorney Stephanie L. Cesare, a former senior assistant public defender for Cumberland County, makes her third straight appearance as a Super Lawyer Rising Star. She focuses on criminal law, family law and child protective services matters.

Attorney Michele L. Kluk, who was first named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in 2019, makes a second appearance on the list, and Attorney Brian P. Platt, makes his first appearance in the lawyer rating list.

Attorney Kluk practices family law and criminal defense law. She is a former Deputy Attorney General with the Pennsylvania State Attorney General Office.

A former senior deputy public defender with Dauphin County, Attorney Platt focuses his practice on criminal defense law.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multi-phase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area.

Divorce: Who Gets the House? The Debt?

The question of how marital property is divided is the most litigated area in divorce law and generally the reason that divorce proceedings can go on for years. Equitable Distribution is the name of legal process used to divide the marital estate.

Attorney Michele L. Kluk practices Family Law

As tempting as it may be to compare your situation with the experiences of friends and family, Equitable Distribution is a complex area of the law, and is always changing and evolving. For every general rule of thumb, there are several exceptions. Legal advice on your situation should come from an attorney, not a well-meaning friend or relative. Especially when it comes to family law, under which divorce falls, a resolution depends heavily on the unique facts in a case. Therefore, your case is highly unlikely to be the same as any other and calls for professional legal guidance – not tips from friends.

An explanation of Equitable Distribution can be simplified when described in three steps. The first step is identifying what is marital and what is not marital property. The second is establishing the value of the marital property. In the third step, the equitable division of property will be determined. A divorce lawyer will help you navigate this three-step process, and his or her legal representation will allow you to offload the stress onto a professional trained to handle property distribution.

Identifying marital and non-marital property.  The general rule is that anything acquired from the date of marriage to the date of separation is considered marital property.  As stated above, however, there are always exceptions. Some property acquired during the marriage will be ineligible for division; at the same time, some non-marital property will have a marital property component. Never assume that a portion of property is marital or non-marital. You can assist your attorney in preparing for Equitable Distribution and improve your chances of a balanced distribution. Make a list of all property. Your list might look like this: home at 123 Main Street; vacation home at 345 Fun Drive; a 401(k); savings accounts; 2012 SUV; stocks; and any other property. Don’t forget to list debt as well. Just like assets, all debt will be identified as marital or non-marital. List loans, mortgages, credit card balances, and lines of credit.

Valuing the property.  This is done through a combination of the following: agreement of the parties, appraisals, statements, and documents. Once you are thinking of filing for divorce, it will save you money and time to begin collecting statements and organizing pertinent documents. The date of separation is an important date for most statements, and is a good place to start for other property. Give your attorney bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage documents, deeds, any appraisals, and any retirement statements.

Dividing the property.  Pennsylvania law requires that property be divided equitably, which is not the same as dividing it 50/50. Often, the parties can come to an agreement on a division. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the division will be determined by a Divorce Master. In Pennsylvania, the Divorce Master is appointed by the county court. The Divorce Master considers 11 factors when making an Equitable Distribution decision. Again, you can save money by providing your attorney with a list of the property and supporting documents along with income and expenses, pay stubs, and tax returns.

Whether you are thinking of filing for divorce, or just received a divorce complaint filed by your spouse, there are complex issues to consider in dividing property. Gathering and organizing property files is important in obtaining the right legal advice for your situation. It also helps your attorney fight for the best distribution for you.