AILA-Ohio 2017 Annual Conference;
Presenter Bios and Credentials:
Michael H. Sharon
Michael Sharon is the co-founder and Managing Member of Sharon & Kalnoki LLC, which was established in 2000. Practicing immigration law for over 30 years has given Michael extensive experience and knowledge of employment/business and family based immigration. He regularly advises individuals, families, and both new and established businesses on a wide spectrum of immigration matters. His practice focuses upon routine to complex employment and family based immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, adjustment of status, and naturalization issues. He has published articles and has lectured around the world on various aspects of immigration law before organizations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Ohio Society for Human Resource Management, and the Fudan University in Shanghai.
Over the years, Michael has represented clients in proceedings in USCIS district offices and regional service centers, Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), state employment agencies, U.S. Department of Labor, the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA), various offices of the U.S. Department of State, American Consulates around the world, the Federal District Court, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He has been a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for more than 25 years.
Michael has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the field of Immigration Law. Ohio Super Lawyers magazine has selected Mr. Sharon as a “Super Lawyer” annually since 2006. He has also been chosen as a “Leading Lawyer” by Inside Business magazine since 2004. Martindale-Hubbell (est. 1868) has bestowed its highest “AV” ranking upon Mr. Sharon, with a perfect 5.0 Preeminent rating. Avvo, the online lawyer rating service, rated Michael “Superb” (perfect 10 of 10).
Michael has developed and teaches an advanced business immigration law course at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where he received his J.D. He earned his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College. He is a member of the bar in the State of Ohio courts, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dorman Law founder, Monica L. Dorman, focuses her practice exclusively on immigration law. She has represented clients from over 60 different countries on every populated continent and has helped countless families navigate the complex immigration system. Monica launched her career at a well-known immigration law firm in Columbus, Ohio. After opening the law firm of Miller, Dorman and Partee in 2008, she set out on her own in 2010. As of 2013, Monica has a Memorandum of Understanding with Franklin County Children Services to provide immigration assistance to the youth in the agency’s care. Monica actively volunteers her time with numerous organizations, both law-related and otherwise.
Admitted to the Ohio Bar in 2009 and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in 2010. He earned his undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University and his law degree from Capital University. Matthew practices in the areas of family law, consumer law and immigration. He has years of experience representing corporations and individuals in immigration proceedings before the U.S. Immigration Courts, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of Labor. Additionally, he served as a legal extern for the Ohio Attorney General Consumer Protection Section while in law school. Matthew serves as the new member liaison for the Ohio chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Jessica Rodriguez Bell
Jessica Rodriguez Bell is managing partner of Rodriguez Bell & DiFranco Law Office, LLC. Jessica graduated from Wittenberg University in 1998 and obtained her J.D. from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2001. Jessica is admitted to practice before the State of Ohio, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Jessica has been recognized by Ohio Super Lawyers and as a Rising Star among her colleagues. Her practice includes handling: complex immigration removal defense cases, appeals, and federal court litigation; family-based immigration; asylum; naturalization; U visas and some criminal and domestic cases. Jessica speaks frequently on various topics and works with the Ohio Hispanic Coalition to provide representation to victims of domestic violence. She also serves on the Justice Ministry Board at her church which assists with incoming refugees and their families.
Elizabeth M. Knowles
Elizabeth M. Knowles joined the Akron Law faculty in 2016. Professor Knowles supervises the Immigration & Human Rights Law Clinic and teaches Asylum and Refugee Law. Her current research explores access to justice issues for detained non-citizens and holistic approaches to advocating for ultra-vulnerable clients in removal proceedings.
Prior to joining Akron Law, Professor Knowles served as Executive Director of the American Bar Association’s Immigration Justice Project (IJP). She supervised the Legal Orientation Program at the Otay Mesa Detention Center on the U.S. – Mexico Border and the IJP’s Pro Bono Lawyer Training Program. She implemented and directed the National Qualified Representative program for the San Diego region, serving along with her legal team as government appointed counsel for mentally incompetent detainees in immigration removal proceedings. Professor Knowles created and directed the Immigration Removal Defense Clinic at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, training students to represent detained, asylum-seekers in immigration court. Professor Knowles also served as a Commissioner on the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women and chaired the Commission’s Domestic Violence Committee.
Professor Knowles is a member of the California State Bar, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the American Constitution Society. She earned her B.A. in Fine Arts from San Diego State University and her J.D. and certificate in Law and Social Justice from Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
Rob’s primary area of practice is immigration and nationality law. He has extensive experience in all aspects of business and family immigration procedures. Rob is past chair of the Board of Trustees for the American Immigration Council, has served as the Ohio Chapter chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, chair of the Nebraska Service Center Liaison Committee, and is currently chair of the USCIS Benefits Liaison Committee. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America®. in the areas of Immigration Law every year since 1995, and was most recently named The Best Lawyers in America® 2015 Columbus, Ohio Immigration Law “Lawyer of the Year.” In addition to his legal experience, he was also an instructor for the Legal Assistant program at Capital University from 1986-2015.
Melissa Crow is the Litigation Director at the American Immigration Council. She oversees the Council’s impact litigation, legal advocacy and legal education work. She has litigated numerous cases of national importance and has consistently worked to protect the legal rights of noncitizens. Prior to joining the Council, she served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Policy at the Department of Homeland Security. She was previously a partner with Brown, Goldstein & Levy in Baltimore, Maryland, where she developed a thriving immigration practice and undertook litigation to protect immigrants’ rights in the workplace. Before entering private practice, she served as Counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy during the 2007 debates on the U.S. Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill. She has taught in the Safe Harbor Clinic at Brooklyn Law School and the International Human Rights Clinic at Washington College of Law. Melissa holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law and a M.A.L.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
David Leopold’s diverse immigration, visa, and citizenship practice focuses on employment- and family-based immigration, the representation of employers in Form I-9 compliance matters, complex removal cases including administrative trials and appeals, and federal court litigation. Mr. Leopold is the past president and past general counsel of the Washington, D.C.-based American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the premier bar association of immigration lawyers and professors in the U.S. A nationally recognized immigration reform advocate, writer, and public speaker, Mr. Leopold has testified as an immigration law expert before the U.S. Congress and frequently writes for MSNBC.com, CNN.com, TPM.com, USAToday, The Hill, and Huffington Post. His analyses of cutting-edge immigration issues frequently appears in major media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, and CNN.
Robert E. Juceam is of counsel to the Firm, resident in Fried Frank’s New York office. He joined the Firm in 1966, became a partner in 1974 and of counsel to the Firm in 2006. From 1995 to 2001, he chaired the litigation department in the Washington, DC office.During Mr. Juceam’s 45 years of practice of civil and white-collar criminal law litigation and investigations he has defended public companies and directors of public companies charged with federal securities and Investment Company Act violations, conducted private investigations parallel to federal regulatory law enforcement proceedings and served as lead counsel or principal investigator in internal corporate and special litigation committee investigations. He has led major litigation claims and defense of claims in insurance and reinsurance proceedings.
Mr. Juceam’s diverse experience also includes lead responsibility in mediation, arbitration and judicial proceedings involving commercial contracts, mergers and acquisitions, securities-class actions, FOIA, administrative and constitutional law, injunctive and damages claims against the federal government, real estate, employment, immigration and naturalization, criminal law including resentencing, matrimonial law, defense of attorneys and architects in malpractice and professional disciplinary proceedings, intellectual property and unfair competition.
With a concentration in litigation, Tania T. Nemer graduated with distinction from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2007. She worked at the Washtenaw County Public Defender’s Office in Michigan and later joined the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in Ohio. In 2008, Ms. Nemer joined McGinty, Hilow & Spellacy Co. LPA, where she remains of counsel. Ms. Nemer currently works as the Immigration Senior Attorney at Catholic Charities, Migration and Refugee Services, Immigration Legal Services.
Ms. Nemer is a general practice attorney, working primarily with criminal and immigration cases of all sizes. She particularly enjoys working closely with the families of clients on legal matters that impact their livelihoods and goals.
Ms. Nemer is a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and the Westshore Bar Association.
Ms. Nemer is also actively involved in numerous other organizations. A professional article of hers, Criminal and Immigration Laws: The Lines and The Lives They Cross, was also recently published in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal.
L. Robert Thaxton has practiced exclusively in the field of Immigration Law for sixteen years, representing clients from all over the world in the areas of employment-based and family-based permanent residency, nonimmigrant visas, and citizenship and naturalization. In 2010, Ohio Super Lawyers magazine named Bobby as a “Rising Star” in the legal field of Immigration. In addition to his legal practice, Bobby is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Capital University Law School where he teaches a course on Immigration and Naturalization to current law students. He previously taught the same course for a number of years at the Pettit College of Law at Ohio Northern University. Bobby graduated from the Michael E. Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University in 1997 where he served as the Executive Editor of the Ohio State Law Journal. Prior to obtaining his law degree, Bobby graduated cum laude from Miami University where he received his undergraduate degree in History and Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs.
Following law school, Bobby worked at a small litigation firm before beginning his Immigration career in 2001. In 2010, he established Thaxton Law Offices Co., LPA. Bobby has given many talks and presentations regarding Immigration in and around Ohio, including Continuing Legal Education courses at the Ohio State Bar Association and the Columbus Bar Association, the Ohio Department of Health, The Ohio State University Medical Center, Heidelberg University, the 2008 Ohio Public Health Combined Conference, the Ohio State University Symposium on Health Care, and various churches and organizations. Bobby is a former member of the Board of Directors of AIDS Resource Center Ohio where he served as the Chair of the Board, and a former Board Member of the Short North Civic Association in Columbus, Ohio.
Blake Somers is a private practitioner in Cincinnati, Ohio. His practice includes immigration, domestic relations, criminal defense, and appellate litigation. He is licensed in Ohio, the United States Supreme Court, several Circuits Courts including the Sixth Circuit where he maintains an active practice, and immigration agencies nationwide. He is the current Treasurer for the Ohio AILA Chapter.
His favorite flower is the “Indian Paintbrush.” He enjoys gardening and spending time with his wife and two children. He is currently working on an acoustic guitar chord-melody arrangement of Taylor Swift’s “Trouble,” although he is having difficulty structuring the chord voicing for some of the chorus.
Neil Fleischer is a co-founder and partner at the Fleischer Law Firm LLC. Previously, he was a partner in t the long established law firm of Cohen, Todd, Kite & Stanford, LLC and formed the Fleischer Immigration Practice Group. He has been practicing Immigration law since 2000. Neil focuses his practice on all aspects of immigration law including family immigration, fiancé visas, H-1B, L-1, O-1, R-1 and P-1 visas. Neil has focused much of his time preparing PERM and national interest waivers cases for his clients which include cancer and heart researchers, architects, bankers, and world class athletes. Neil takes great pride in handling complex family based appeals, where hope of family unification seems bleak. From 2009-2015, Neil I. Fleischer was named a “Rising Star” by Law & Politics Magazine and the publishers of Cincinnati Magazine.
He is a member of the American Lawyer Association and Cincinnati Bar Association. He has served on the Board of Trustees of the International Visitors Council of Cincinnati, and the Alumni Board of his Alma Mater, The Cincinnati Country Day School. Neil has published articles and has lectured at local College and Universities regarding Immigration Law.
Neena Dutta is a seasoned immigration practitioner, with a focus on corporate immigration. She represents a wide variety of employers who wish to sponsor individuals, as well as, teams of employees, advising them on business-related immigration matters involving the recruitment, hiring, transfer, and retention of foreign nationals in the United States. she has experience with the intersection of immigration and employment law, including I-9 audits, Department of Labor issues and employee handbooks. As well as business immigration, she has experience with family based cases and appeals. Ms. Dutta has also represented Pro Bono clients in asylum, deportation and special immigrant juvenile cases.
Ms. Dutta is admitted to practice in the States of New York and New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Ms. Dutta graduated from Seattle University in 1997, and earned her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in 2003.
Ms. Dutta has served on numerous elected and appointed positions: she is currently serving as part of the Executive Committee of the AILA NY Chapter, currently as the Secretary (2012-2013), formerly as the Treasurer (2011-2012). As a member of the Executive Committee, she regularly meets with government officials from Homeland Security including the District Director’s Office from U.S.C.I.S., Customs and Border Patrol, and representatives from the Service Centers. She served as Co-Chair of the AILA Corporate Practice Committee (2009-2011), and a former Member of the AILA Department of Labor Committee (2008-2009).
Lisa Helen York has practiced immigration law for over ten years. She focuses her practice on representing businesses and individuals, as well as families and students.
Ms. York graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2002. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1995 with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. She is licensed to practice law in the State of Colorado.
In 2014, Ms. York was elected to serve on the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). For the past two years, she chaired the AILA national USCIS Field Operations Liaison Committee. In 2008-2009, she served as Chair of the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). For the past three years, she has been a member of the AILA national Annual Conference Planning Committee. In 2014-2015, she is serving as Chair of the AILA Annual Conference Fundamentals Planning Committee. She also currently serves as Vice-Chair of AILA national’s Interagency Committee. She served as a member of the AILA national Ethics and Professionalism Committee from 2010-2012. She also served on the AILA national 2010 Fall Conference Planning Committee. Ms. York has presented on a variety of immigration related topics including presentations for AILA, NASFA: Association of International Educators, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
In 2012, she was awarded AILA Colorado’s Outstanding Member Award. In 2013, she was the recipient of an AILA National President’s Commendation Award for her work chairing the AILA national USCIS Field Operations Committee. In 2012, she was awarded AILA Colorado’s Outstanding Member Award. From 2009-2013, Ms. York was named by Colorado Super Lawyers as one of Colorado’s Rising Stars.
Nicole Simon is the Managing Partner of Landau, Hess, Simon & Choi. She represents individuals and businesses in all facets of immigration matters, including employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, family-based cases, and naturalization. Among Nicole’s clients are colleges, universities, hospitals, non-profits, and large and small private employers. Her practice includes counseling employers on I-9 and related employer compliance issues. Nicole has presented on business and family immigration topics at American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) local and national conferences and has lectured on immigration options for foreign national students, physicians and researchers to universities and professional scientific organizations. Nicole is listed in The Best Lawyers in America. Nicole received her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2001 and has been practicing federal immigration law exclusively since 2003. She is a member of the State Bar of California. Nicole currently serves as Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Vermont Service Center Liaison Committee and as a member of the AILA Service Center Operations (SCOPS) Liaison Committee. She previously served as Vice Chair and as a member of the Vermont Service Center Liaison Committee as well as a member of the AILA USCIS Ombudsman Liaison Committee. From 2011 until 2013, Nicole held the position of Chair of the AILA Philadelphia Chapter and from 2013 until 2016 co-chaired the AILA Philadelphia Chapter USCIS Liaison Committee. Nicole graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a B.A. degree in English.
Joseph J. (“JJ”) Shepherd is a senior associate in the Los Angeles office of Tafapolsky & Smith LLP. Mr. Shepherd advises employers, investors, and individuals regarding all aspects of U.S. immigration and nationality law. Mr. Shepherd currently serves as Vice-Chair of the AILA National USCIS Service Center Operations Liaison Committee, CSC Subcommittee, and previously served as a Member of the AILA National ACES (Athletics, Culture, Entertainment, and Science) Committee (2015-2017) and as a Member of the AILA National LGBT Immigration Issues Working Group (2014-2015). Mr. Shepherd is licensed in Massachusetts and practices exclusively immigration and nationality law.
Dave is a partner in the Vorys Columbus office and a member of the corporate group. His practice focuses on the representation of businesses and individuals in all areas of immigration and naturalization law. Dave is fluent in Japanese.
Dave is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), where he serves as the Ohio Chapter Liaison to the USCIS Columbus office. He served as a member of AILA’s 2015 Annual Conference Planning Committee (Business) and has served as a member of AILA’s Distance Learning and Business Committees. Dave has also served as Chair of AILA’s USCIS Texas Service Center Liaison Committee (2013-2014) and as a member of AILA’s USCIS Service Center Operations (SCOPS) Liaison Committee. Dave served previously as a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association USCIS Texas Service Center Liaison Committee (2009 – 2012) and as a member of the Nebraska Service Center Liaison Committee (2008-09). Dave is also a member of the Columbus Bar Association.
Dave frequently presents seminars dealing with employment-related visa and immigration matters and employment-related immigration compliance.
Dave received his J.D. from the University of Washington School of Law and his B.A. from Brigham Young University.
Dave served as senior assistant counsel at Honda of America Mfg. Inc. from 1990 to 1995.
Dave is past president of the Rotary Club of Hilliard.
Brian Hoffman is a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center currently serving as Lead Attorney for the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative in Lumpkin, Georgia, which provides pro bono representation to detainees at the Stewart Detention Center. Brian grew up on a farm in Ohio and earned his law degree from The Ohio State University. He later worked for Ohio Governor Ted Strickland before going into private practice in Columbus. In 2015, Brian became the inaugural Lead Attorney on the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, serving for six months. Brian is one of only three Ohio attorneys who are also Ohio Supreme Court certified court interpreters. He and his work with CARA have been featured in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Columbus Dispatch, and in a variety of other publications. Brian has appeared on Al Jazeera America, Telemundo, CNN en Español, NPR, and many local news programs in Ohio.
Sui Chung specializes in removal defense with Immigration Law & Litigation Group based in Miami, Florida. The American Immigration Lawyers Association awarded her the Michael Maggio Award after she established the Krome Mental Incompetency Project. She was co-counsel in Hernandez v. State, the lead case in Florida addressing an immigrant’s right to effective representation of counsel, and counsel for Enrique, from award-winning novel, Enrique’s Journey. Ms. Chung is President of AILA South Florida, and serves on the boards of the American Immigration Council, Catholic Legal Services, and Immigrants’ List. She is a member of the AILA National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Liaison Committee. She began her career at the Board of Immigration Appeals with the United States Department of Justice Attorney General Honors Program. She received a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University School of Law, and Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees from Oberlin College.
Gracie Willis is currently the direct services attorney with Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, located in Lumpkin, GA. Prior to joining the team in Lumpkin, Gracie represented over 20,000 detained mothers and children in the Dilley, TX, family detention center as a staff attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and the CARA Pro Bono Project. She is a graduate of University of Michigan Law School (Go Blue!) and spent a year as a University of Michigan Bridge Fellow with Casa Marianella Immigrant Legal Services in Austin, TX. She has externed with the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Detroit, MI, and spent a summer interning with the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project’s deportation defense practice in Harlingen, TX.
An immigration attorney from Chicago, IL, Ms. Lindt was elected to serve as AILA’s First Vice President for the 2017-2018 term.
Ms. Lindt is a partner at the Chicago office of Sidley Austin LLP, where she works with U.S. and multinational corporations to manage their business immigration visa programs to best attract and retain foreign national talent. She also leads her firm’s I-9 compliance practice, where she assists employers with implementing best practices for worker verification, advises companies on immigration-related issues in mergers and acquisitions, and defends companies in administrative and criminal immigration-related proceedings.
In addition to her work in representing U.S. companies, Ms. Lindt is actively engaged in AILA and other networks, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to advocate for change in our immigration laws to better serve U.S. employers and immigrant communities. Ms. Lindt has also worked for a number of years in AILA’s government liaison efforts to advocate for reasonable interpretations of the immigration laws.
Ms. Lindt has authored numerous articles for leading immigration texts, including AILA’s Guide to Worksite Enforcement and Compliance, the Guide to PERM Labor Certification, and numerous annual editions of the Immigration & Nationality Law Handbook. She is a primary author of the immigration law and practice treatise Business Immigration Law (for both the Strategies for Employing Foreign Nationals and Forms and Filings volumes), and has appeared a number of times on television, radio and in print regarding developments in immigration law.
Beyond her service to her clients and the immigration bar, Ms. Lindt is committed to pro bono work and providing access to counsel for underserved immigrants. For a number of years, she has served as a member of the Leadership Board of the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago and provides pro bono representation to refugees, asylees and immigrant survivors of domestic violence. She also serves in an advisory capacity to several Chicago-area cultural institutions and to organizations that provide assistance to underserved immigrant communities.
Jeff Joseph is a graduate of the University of Denver, College of Law. He is a past Chapter Chair of the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and a past elected director on the AILA National Board of Governors. Mr. Joseph currently serves on the national liaison committee between US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and AILA and as Chair of the AILA Federal Court Litigation Section. He has formerly served in numerous leadership positions in AILA including as Chair of the AILA National 2011 Annual Conference, the AILA National Liaison Committee with the headquarters of the Executive Office for Immigration Review for two years, two terms as chair of the AILA Amicus Committee, for three years as a member of the National US Citizenship and Immigration Services Liaison Committee and for three years as a member of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Liaison Committee. Mr. Joseph was on the Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council from 2006-2012 and served as Chair of the Litigation Action Committee.
In 2004, he received the Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award from AILA. In 2005, he was named a finalist in the Denver Bar Association/Denver Business Journal Best of the Bar Awards. In 2008, Mr. Joseph was nominated by the Denver Business Journal as one of Denver’s “Forty under 40” which recognizes forty young entrepreneurs for their business skills, leadership and community service. In 2009-2015, Mr. Joseph was selected by his peers for inclusion into the Best Lawyers in America in the field of immigration. And, in 2015 was named Best Immigration Lawyer of the Year in Denver by Best Lawyers. In 2006 through 2015, Mr. Joseph was named a Colorado Superlawyer by Colorado Superlawyer Magazine. 5280 Magazine also named Mr. Joseph a “Top Lawyer” in the area of immigration law for 2006 through 2015. Joseph Law Firm, P.C. has also been ranked as a Top Tier law firm in the field of Immigration Law by U.S. News and World Reports. In 2008, Mr. Joseph was appointed by Governor Bill Ritter to the Colorado Nonimmigrant Agricultural Seasonal Worker Pilot Program Advisory Council.
Mr. Joseph has represented clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the U.S. District Courts, and the Circuit Courts of Appeals, and has published several opinions in those courts.
Sharon Mehlman is an AV rated* attorney, whose vast expertise helps to ensure a smooth client experience in the midst of an array of business immigration matters for corporate entities. Her practice is concentrated in the high-tech, biotech, computer gaming, multimedia and telecommunications industries.
Sharon enjoys the challenge of practicing in an area of law that is constantly changing. Sharon’s expertise spans virtually every corner of employment-based immigration law and practice, beginning with the recruitment and retention of foreign national employees, to the implementation of corporate immigration strategies and policies, all the way through enforcement issues such as I-9 audits, LCA compliance, and related trainings. Apart from her active practice representing an array of industries, Sharon is dedicated to immigration advocacy through ongoing commitments to the national immigration bar for many years. In that capacity, she has met frequently with immigration agency executives and staff to discuss legal and procedural issues, the state of the current immigration system, and has made suggestions for improvement. Sharon also works with immigration attorneys nationwide on best practice issues. She is a frequent lecturer, locally and nationally, on employment based immigration topics including USCIS and Service Center issues, H petitions, PERM labor certifications and I-9 issues.
Sharon is a dog-lover and is the proud owner of two very spoiled Chihuahuas, Tucker and Augie. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and has varied interests, including baking, dance, travel, the performing arts, wine, and trying new foods. She has also been studying American Sign Language.
Scott Bratton is a Partner at Margaret Wong and Associates, LLC. His practice includes removal defense, political asylum, federal litigation, criminal law, and assistance in business and family based visas. Mr. Bratton is an experienced litigator who practices regularly in courts throughout the United States. Mr. Bratton received his BA in Business Management from Ohio Northern University in 1993 and his JD from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1997. Prior to joining Margaret Wong & Associates, Mr. Bratton was a partner in the law firm of Bratton & Ratliff Co., LPA, where he practiced federal and state criminal law. Mr. Bratton has practiced immigration law for over fifteen years and has been the attorney of record on numerous precedent-setting cases. Mr. Bratton is an adjunct faculty member at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law where he teaches immigration law. Mr. Bratton is also annually selected as an Ohio Super Lawyer. He is a frequent speaker at immigration conferences throughout the United States.
Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 25 years. He was awarded his JD in 1990 and his MBA in 1991, both from the University of Akron. Since 1996, he has also been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio, where he wrote and used his own immigration textbook. Attorney Sethna is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. He has won awards for excellence in teaching and for pro-bono service. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and New Philadelphia, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases before federal agencies and the immigration courts nationwide. A private pilot, it is Farhad’s goal to fly to each of Ohio’s 88 county airports.
Sarah Owings attended the College of Law at Georgia State University, where she earned a Juris Doctor degree in 2007. During law school, Mrs. Owings was an extern with the Chief Counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She practiced law with The Antonini Law Firm from 2007, until 2012, when the law firm merged to become Antonini & Cohen Immigration Law Group. In 2017, Ms. Owings formed Owings Immigration Law, LLC, in Atlanta, Georgia, where she currently practices law. She served as a board member for the Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network from 2010 until 2012 and has served as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) liaison to the Atlanta Immigration Court and to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Mrs. Owings was elected to the executive committee of the Georgia-Alabama Chapter of AILA in 2012 and currently serves on the committee as Past Chapter Chair. In 2017, Ms. Owings was elected to the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Mrs. Owings has experience in all family-based immigration matters, cases of removal (deportation) defense, petitions under the Violence Against Women Act, U Visas and asylum proceedings. She has spoken on a number of immigration-related topics throughout her career. She resides in the Atlanta area and is a member in good standing of the Georgia Bar.
Danielle Rizzo is Senior Counsel at Harris Beach, PLLC in Buffalo, NY. She limits her practice to immigration law and focuses on employment-based immigration. She is currently serving as Chair of AILA’s national CBP liaison committee, and is a past Chair of the AILA Upstate NY Chapter and of the AILA national Publications Committee.
Marin K. Ritter is a founding member of Ritter Halliday LLP, based in Cleveland, Ohio. Ms. Ritter received her B.A. degree in English from Oberlin College in 1987, her Master of Library Science degree from the University of Maryland in 1991, and her J.D., cum laude, from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1996. She has practiced immigration law since 1996. Ms. Ritter was an associate and partner with a boutique immigration law firm in downtown Cleveland for 11 years before establishing the Law Offices of Marin K. Ritter LLC in January 2008.
Mr. Ritter’s practice is focused on immigration and nationality law matters for major corporations, closely-held businesses, nonprofit organizations, and colleges and universities. Her professional memberships include the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the British-American Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Ritter is admitted to the practice of law in the State of Ohio, and has lectured on general corporate immigration issues.
Jeremy McKinney is the current AILA Secretary and a NC Board Certified Immigration Law Specialist with offices in Greensboro, Wilmington and Asheville, North Carolina. Previously, he was an Elected Director on AILA’s Board of Governors, Chair of AILA’s EOIR and ICE Liaison Committees, Chair of Membership and Carolinas Chapter Chair. Jeremy also served as an Adjunct Professor at Elon U. Law School and a member of the NC State Bar’s Specialization Committee. He graduated from Va. Commonwealth U. in 1993 and later received his J.D. from Campbell U. Law School in 1996. Jeremy is a former Captain in the NC Army National Guard who was deployed in 2003 to Jordan in connection with the Iraq War.
Heather Drabek Prendergast practices in Cleveland, Ohio where she is Of Counsel with Aljijakli & Kosseff, LLC. She is Chair AILA’s National ICE Liaison Committee and an Elected Director on AILA’s Board of Governors. Heather regularly speaks about immigration issues at local, regional, and national conferences, and serves on several conference planning committees. She handles complex immigration removal defense including trials, appeals, and federal court litigation; employment-based immigration for skilled professionals; family-based immigration; asylum; and naturalization. Heather is admitted to practice in Ohio, New York, the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Heather is a graduate of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, Ohio and Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. She is an avid equestrian and runner.
Amy Bittner is managing partner of Muchnicki & Bittner, LLP, and current Chair of the Ohio Chapter of AILA. Amy graduated from the Ohio State University in 2002 and obtained her Master’s degree in Spanish from Ohio State in 2004. Amy received her J.D. from the Ohio State University in 2007 and was admitted to the Ohio bar the same year. Amy is currently an Adjunct Professor teaching immigration law at the Moritz College of Law of the Ohio State University.
Maria T. Schneider is an Attorney with Musillo Unkenholt (MU). Maria’s practice includes both business and family-based immigration. Maria is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Cincinnati Bar Association (CBA). She founded and is now the vice-chair of the CBA’s Immigration Law Practice Group and serves on the CBA Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Bar Association. Maria is also an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
William A. Stock, an immigration lawyer in Philadelphia, PA, is AILA’s Immediate Past President for the 2017-2018 term.
William A. Stock is a founding partner of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP, where he leads the Corporate Immigration team from the firm’s Philadelphia headquarters. With more than 23 years of experience practicing immigration law, Mr. Stock focuses his practice on employment-based immigration for some of the largest companies, health care systems and universities in the country, as well as individual investors, researchers and physicians. In addition, Mr. Stock also handles complex family-based, citizenship, and naturalization matters, as well as defends clients in removal and Department of Labor enforcement proceedings. He has an impressive track record of litigating against the government in the federal courts to obtain immigration benefits unlawfully withheld.
Long active in AILA on both national and local levels, Mr. Stock has served several terms on the association’s Board of Governors and received the organization’s Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award for outstanding accomplishments in immigration law in 2000. A frequent speaker and author on immigration law topics, Mr. Stock has taught immigration law at Villanova University School of Law. He has served on the editorial board of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin and was a senior editor of AILA’s annual Immigration Practice Pointers.
Raised in northern Wisconsin, Mr. Stock received a scholarship from the German Bundestag in 1985 to spend his senior year of high school in Lübeck, Germany. He returned to the United States for college, graduating summa cum laude from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1993. In law school, Mr. Stock was a student director of the Immigration and Human Rights Law Clinic, and worked as a foreign student advisor for the University’s Office of International Education.
Mr. Stock lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife of 25 years, Mary Stock. They have three children: Ben, Katie, and Maggie. He is a supporter of the arts, including the Philadelphia Opera as well as community orchestras and dance groups. Mr. Stock is an avid reader and hockey fan as well as an active member and elder at Abington Presbyterian Church.
Elissa J. Taub is an attorney in the Memphis office of Siskind Susser PC, where she practices primarily in the area of physician immigration. Elissa also handles cases for individuals in the sports, entertainment and fashion industries. She has extensive experience with J-1 waivers, H-1Bs, O-1s, EB-1 extraordinary ability petitions, National Interest Waivers and labor certification based green cards, as well as a variety of other business and family immigration processes.
Prior to joining the firm in 2007, Elissa was an associate at two large law firms where she represented corporate clients in a variety of complex litigation matters, including antitrust, white collar criminal and class action litigation.
Elissa earned her Juris Doctor degree from Villanova University School of Law in Villanova, PA where she graduated magna cum laude, Order of the Coif. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
Elissa has authored several articles and spoken on panels related to physician and business immigration and is regularly invited by clients to present on immigration matters. Elissa is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and has served on its Healthcare Professionals Committee. She also is a member of The Florida Bar.
Ms. Najfabadi’s area of practice focuses on representing health care professionals, with special emphasis on international medical graduates, outstanding professors and researchers. She was admitted to the California bar in 1991.
She formerly served as Chairperson of the Immigration Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). She formerly served on the AILA Liaison Committee and is a member of the National Healthcare Access Coalition. Ms. Najfabadi has lectured on immigration law matters pertaining to J-1 physicians in the United States and Canada. She has been a guest speaker at AILA Local and National Conferences, has been on the Michael Jackson Radio Talk show and KCET Channel 34. Her most recent article on Clinical J-1 waivers was published in the June 2009 issue of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association annual conference handbook.
She is an attorney with the Law Offices of Elahe Najfabadi in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to establishing her own practice, from January 1992 to December 2015, she was a Sr. attorney with the Law Offices of Carl Shusterman in Los Angeles, CA.
David Ware graduated from Yale College, summa cum laude, in 1977. He received his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1981, after spending a year abroad studying Mexican law pursuant to a Fulbright-Hayes scholarship. He is admitted to practice in the State of Louisiana, but as an attorney whose practice is limited to federal law, may lawfully practice in any state of the Union. He has practiced immigration and nationality law exclusively since 1982, either in solo practice or as a partner. He has diverse experience in representing companies, universities, medical schools and many other entities, and individuals, regarding immigration concerns. He has for many years been elected to the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and has been selected as one of the Best Lawyers in America since 2000. For 10 years, Mr Ware has been placed among the top immigration attorneys in Louisiana by New Orleans Magazine, and in 2005 and 2008, City Business magazine selected him as one of the top 50 “Leaders in Law” in Louisiana, the only immigration attorney ever so chosen. He has also held the highest rating, AV, in the attorneys’ directory, Martindale Hubbell, for over a decade. Mr Ware is a recognized leader among immigration attorneys in practice areas of interest to higher education and business immigration, and he has for many years served as a mentor in these areas for other immigration attorneys through the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Mentorship Program.
Mr Ware has been active in the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs: Association of International Educators (NAFSA) since 1985. In addition to holding several AILA and NAFSA leadership positions, he has received awards for outstanding service to NAFSA Region III (South Central States) five times, as well as commendations for service from both the Miami Chapter of the Florida Association of International Educators, the Texas State NAFSA chapter (twice), and the Federal Bar Association Immigration Law Section. He presents approximately 50 times per year, serving as an expert speaker at AILA, NAFSA, NACUA, FBA, and many other organizations’ international, regional conferences and local conferences and meetings.
He currently is serving a third term on the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association’s Liaison Committee to the US Department of Labor, as well as the Healthcare Professionals/Physicians Committee.
He also has served for several years on the Advisory Board of the Federal Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section, as well at the Editorial Board of NACUA Notes, a publication of the National Association of College and University Attorneys.
He is a member of IMMLAW, the Immigration Lawyers’ Consortium, a select group of the finest boutique firms in the US.
He serves on the International Medical Graduate Taskforce, dedicated to improving the legal situation of foreign physicians in the US.
Mr. Ware has participated as an expert in several legal proceedings over the decades. Most recently he served as expert in a domestic proceeding where the issue was the nature of Optional Practical Training accorded F-1 students following their studies.
Mr. Ware currently divides his time between his offices in Metairie, Louisiana and Seattle, Washington.
Madhu N. Sharma
Madhu N. Sharma has served as Director of Immigrant Services since August 2015. She is a human rights attorney practicing and teaching in the field of migration law for 18 years. Certified by the State Bar of California, she has represented victims of state sponsored torture, human trafficking, and crime in obtaining U.S. immigration benefits, from countries spanning over four continents.
In 2011, she was awarded a Congressional Certificate of Honor for representing victims in the first federal alien smuggling case to result in visa issuance for undocumented individuals. Madhu brings her indispensable expertise and devotion to the plight of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers to representing the most vulnerable members of the Akron community.