Sussman & Associates is a civil rights firm located in Goshen, NY. Michael Sussman has been fighting for social and individual justice for more than 35 years. He is well known as one of the top trial lawyers in the region. Christopher Watkins, Of Counsel, is an experienced and well-regarded trial attorney and litigator who has consistently obtained outstanding results for his clients. With a team of knowledgeable and hard-working staff, Heather M. Abissi, Esq., Mary Jo Whateley, Esq., Jonathan Goldman, Esq., and Geri Prescott, we comprise the law firm of Sussman & Watkins, dedicated to preserving civil rights and fighting for justice.
— Michael H. Sussman, Esq.
— Christopher D. Watkins, Esq
— Background & Mission
— Our Staff
— Domestic Violence
— Employment Discrimination
— Employment & Labor
— First Amendment: Retaliation
• Carpenter v NYS OCFS
— Governmental Abuse
— Land Use
— Police Abuse & Misconduct
• Police Abuse Cases
— Voting Rights
Ms. Abissi is a Staff Attorney with Sussman & Associates. Ms. Abissi obtained her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Roosevelt University in 2003, and she graduated from Hofstra University: School of Law in 2006. Ms. Abissi is admitted to practice law in Illinois, and New York in the United States District Courts for the Southern, Western, and Northern District of New York, and in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Since graduating in 2006, Ms. Abissi has served as a Staff Attorney for the New York Prosecutors Training Institute, an Assistant District Attorney for the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office, and an Assistant Counsel/Assistant Special Prosecutor for the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, before returning to serve as the Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office.
In January of 2016, Ms. Abissi joined Sussman & Associates and is handling cases in the United States District Courts for the Southern, Western, and Northern District of New York, as well as in NYS Supreme, County, and Family Courts.
Biography to be posted soon.
Ms. Whateley primarily represents children with disabilities. She graduated Pace Law School in 1995, and is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey, in the United States District Courts for the Southern and Northern District of New York, and in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Since 2006, Ms. Whateley has dedicated herself to advocating for children through seeking enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act in state and federal proceedings; enforcement of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act through federal litigation.
In 2012, Ms. Whateley successfully argued her first case before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue was the right of a 5 year-old child with autism to be provided the opportunity to be educated in the least restrictive environment alongside her non-disabled peers before being relegated to a segregated out-of-district BOCES placement. After having lost at the state administrative level, Mr. Sussman & Ms. Whateley brought an action in the Southern District of New York. The District Court Judge found that the school district had, in fact, violated the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act when it developed an individualized education program (IEP) for the child. The Court held that the school district had failed to appropriately consider whether the child could be educated in her home district before recommending a segregated, out-of-district BOCES placement. The school district appealed the decision to the Second Circuit. In affirming the district court, the Second Circuit noted that federal law requires that “to the maximum extent appropriate” children with disabilities should be educated “alongside their non-disabled peers”.
Ms. Whateley is a frequent speaker and trainer on issues related to the rights of children with disabilities and the rights of all children to be educated in an environment free from harassment and bullying. In addition to being a member of the New York State Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (Westchester and Orange-Sullivan Chapters), she is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and is a member of the Board of Directors of PULSES, an organization in the Hudson Valley whose 500+ members are special education parents, educational advocates, service providers and special education attorneys.