General Counsel

The Office of General Counsel (OGC) is responsible for the legal operations of St. John’s University.  We are committed to providing high quality legal services to the University on a broad range of business, academic and statutory issues, and to support the University in its strategic goals and initiatives. 

Services Provided

Contracts and Leases
Review and prepare a wide variety of contracts including real estate contracts and leases, equipment leases, affiliation agreements for student clinical training, consulting contracts for independent contractors, licensing agreements, vendor contracts, and grant agreements.  All contracts, leases and agreements are to be submitted to the Office of General Counsel for review and approval.

Employment Law
Counsels and participates in all aspects of the employment process including hiring, discipline and termination of employees, as well as representing the University in employment claims before state and federal regulatory agencies. 

Student Matters
Participates as needed in code of conduct matters involving students providing advice with regard to student matters on a case-by-case basis. Note the Office of General Counsel DOES NOT provide counsel to students regarding personal legal problems.

University Policies and Procedures
Reviews proposed changes to University policies and procedures and is responsible for creating new policies and procedures on an as needed basis. Reviews various federal, state and local laws applicable to University operations.

Intellectual Property
Provides counsel on patent, copyright and trademark matters affecting the University. 

Real Estate
Provides assistance with the purchase and leasing of real estate.  We also provide counsel on other real estate matters such as property tax and environmental matters. 

Contact Us

Office of General Counsel
Newman Hall, Room 217B

Learn More

Does St. John's provdide Notary Services?
The Office of General Counsel provides notary services in connection with official University business. Please contact Claudine Abrahams at x3358 or Giselle Gutierrez at x6312 to arrange for document notarization. You are required to produce to the notary public photo identification in the form of a current document issued by a federal or state government. A St. John’s ID is not sufficient.

I received a summons/subpoena or other legal notice.  What should I do?
From time to time, University personnel receive official legal documents.  Examples include subpoenas requiring the University to produce copies of records for court proceedings, summonses notifying the University that a lawsuit has been commenced against it, notices of bankruptcy, and notices informing the University of its right to participate in consumer class action suits. 

In general, you should not accept a summons or subpoena that is addressed to St. John’s University, another individual or department.  You should instruct the process server that you do not have authority to accept service of the document and that the document should be taken to the Office of General Counsel.

If you do receive a summons or subpoena involving University business, please inform the Office of General Counsel immediately.  You should also keep a record of the date, time, and method (by hand or mail) by which you received the notice. You should contact Claudine Abrahams or, if she is not available, Giselle Gutierrez.

If you are contacted by an attorney for any of the parties, please refer them to the Office of the General Counsel.

I received a request for educational records.  What should I do?
Federal law requires that special procedures be followed when the University receives a subpoena or other request for educational records concerning individual students.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also know as the “Buckley Amendment”), provides that, with certain exceptions, educational records may not be disclosed to persons outside the University other than the student.  One of the exceptions permits the University to provide copies of student records in connection with judicial proceedings, but only if (1) the University has received a valid subpoena for the records; and (2) the University, before complying with the subpoena, makes a reasonable effort to notify the student that it has received the subpoena and intends to produce the requested records. 

Should you or your office receive a subpoena for educational records, please forward it to the Office of General Counsel as soon as possible. Be sure to specify who received the subpoena and how it was delivered. 

I received an inquiry from government and/or regulatory authorities.  What should I do?
The University may from time to time receive a request for information or site visits from government regulatory and investigative agencies.  Sometimes, the inquiry involves a matter in which the University is directly involved (e.g. inspection of University facilities) or where the University is not directly involved (e.g. law enforcement investigation of an individual).  In either case, it is important the that Office of General Counsel be notified immediately of all non-routine requests for information or site visits by government agencies. 

The Office of General Counsel is committed to ensuring that all legal matters for the University are handled in a professional and timely manner.  In order to efficiently manage the high volume of matters in our office, requests for legal assistance should be directed to Claudine Savain or Giselle Gutierrez via interoffice mail, fax, e-mail or telephone.  Once the matter is received by the Office of General Counsel it will be assigned to an appropriate attorney who will then contact you.

All inquiries concerning matters that have not yet been assigned to an attorney should be directed to Claudine Savain or Giselle Gutierrez. 

Legal Documents and Forms
Below please find the Minors on Campus Policy and related forms:

Minors on Campus Policy

  • Appendix A: Parental Consent Certification Form (PDF)
  • Appendix B: Background Investigation Certification Form (PDF)
  • Appendix C: Supervision of Minors Certification Form (PDF)
  • Appendix D: Required Provisions in Affiliation Agreements/Contracts (PDF)

The Office of General Counsel is responsible for providing counsel to the University, its officers, directors, faculty, administrators and staff. The office, which includes two attorneys in addition to the General Counsel, and two professional support staff members, provides legal advice and counsel on the broad spectrum of legal issues that arise in the operation of the University.  

Attorneys in the Office of General Counsel

Joseph E. Oliva
General Counsel
E-Mail:  [email protected]
Phone:  718-990-6421

Joseph E. Oliva, Esq., serves as Vice President for Administration, Secretary and General Counsel. He joined the University in October 2000.

Mr. Oliva is the chief administrative officer of the University, overseeing Athletics, Public Safety, Human Resources, The Office of General Counsel, Enterprise Risk Management, and Internal Audit.  As the University’s General Counsel, he is the chief legal officer providing counsel to the Board of Trustees, the President and other University administrative offices.  

Prior to his position at St. John’s, Mr. Oliva worked as a litigation associate at the firms Willkie, Farr & Gallagher LLP and Garfunkel, Wild, P.C.

Mr. Oliva graduated summa cum laude from St. John’s University (B.S., Finance) and magna cum laude from St. John’s School of Law.  He served on the St. John’s Law Review.  Mr. Oliva is ordained as a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.  He resides on Long Island with his wife and their three children. 

Joshua S. Hurwit
Deputy General Counsel
E-Mail: [email protected]
Phone:  718-990-5699

Joshua Hurwit joined the Office of General Counsel as Associate General Counsel in June 2016.  Before coming to St. John's, he was an associate at Littler Mendelson P.C., in New York City representing management in all aspects of employment law.  Mr. Hurwit is a graduate of SUNY Oswego and SUNY Buffalo Law School. 

Administrators and Staff in the Office of General Counsel

Giselle Gutierrez
E-Mail: [email protected]
Phone:  718-990-6312

Giselle Gutierrez joined the Office of General Counsel at St. John’s University as Executive Secretary in October of 2007.  Prior to joining St. John’s, Ms. Gutierrez worked in the area of Real Estate Management and as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal at a litigation firm.