Case Highlights from the Community Law Clinic

Students, faculty and staff in the Community Law Clinic have enjoyed a string of successes this quarter resulting in significant economic relief for clients. Read on for highlights of their wonderful work.

Katharine McFarland (’12) and Julia Cherlow (’12) represented a client seeking payment and penalties available under the Labor Code for her employer’s failure to provide her with legally required meal breaks. The client had represented herself in an administrative hearing and won, but the employer appealed for a trial de novo in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Katharine and Julia served discovery requests upon the defendant employer. When the employer and its counsel failed to respond to these discovery requests, Katharine and Julia filed a Motion to Compel, which was granted. Facing the clinic’s litigation, the employer agreed to pay the amount that was awarded to our client in the administrative hearing.

Adam Kretz (’13) represented a San Carlos restaurant worker whose final wages went entirely unpaid.  The restaurant owner, clearly exploiting what he thought was Adam’s client’s vulnerability as an immigrant, simply bullied the worker and refused to pay.  Adam took the case, and sent the owner a letter demanding payroll records and inviting negotiation.  The owner quickly came to the table and agreed to pay the wages plus some of the applicable penalties.

Ravi Doshi (’13) represented a Peninsula secretary whose former employer, a real estate agent, did not pay final wages for several weeks despite her plain demand and availability for payment.  The worker eventually filed her own administrative wage claim, and prevailed when the boss did not attend the hearing.  He eventually paid the wages, but not the statutory penalty, which had been ordered by the agency.  When the boss received the order from the agency, he pursued his right to a de novo bench trial in Superior Court.  The clinic was retained to represent the worker at that stage. Ravi quickly mastered the file, and the statutory scheme that permits accelerated discovery in this de novo context.  Recognizing the leverage it would give his client, Ravi noticed the boss’ deposition.  After claiming he needed to postpone the deposition to hire his own lawyer, the boss stopped returning Ravi’s calls, including the one informing him that the deposition was still legally noticed, and would go forward, exposing the deponent to fees if he failed to attend.  The court reporter set up in the clinic conference room, Ravi placed one more call to the boss, who picked up his phone.  After telling Ravi an absolute lie – that he’d spoken to Ravi’s supervising attorney who had agreed to “waive the deposition” – the boss caved, and agreed to pay the entirety of the outstanding penalty, as well as the court reporter’s fee for attending the deposition.

Melissa Hughes (’13) and Gavriel Jacobs (’13) met with residents of Hotel de Zink: Women’s Shelter on April 26. The community- and Stanford- student run shelter for unhoused women in the Palo Alto area launched this January. Melissa and Gav delivered a presentation about the Community Law Clinic’s practice areas and work with the community, and answered questions regarding legal resources assisting low-income individuals in the Peninsula.

Shira Levine (’12) represented a tenant in an eviction proceeding. The tenant lives on a very limited income and has multiple disabilities. After the April rent became due, she received two notices to pay rent from the landlord, but the two notices demanded differing amounts. The tenant tried to pay, but the landlord wouldn’t accept the amount she offered and filed the lawsuit. Shira filed a motion to quash the service of the summons and complaint because of receipt of two notices to pay rent with differing amounts gave rise to a legal deficiency. Prior to the hearing on the motion, the landlord dismissed the case, and issued a new, legally correct, notice to pay rent. The client was in a position to pay the full amount within the demand period, preventing a fresh eviction case and preserving her housing.

Melissa Hughes (’13) represented a tenant in an eviction proceeding. The tenant is a participant in the Section 8 Housing Voucher Choice program, a federal housing subsidy program in which a participating tenant pays a portion of her rent and the remainder is paid by a local agency referred to as the housing authority. Melissa’s client’s portion of the rent increased by $19.  In April, she paid her old rental amount by check and paid the additional $19 by money order. Her landlord claimed that it did not receive the money order, and issued a three-day notice to pay rent or quit. She mailed another $19 money order to the property management company. The landlord returned it and filed a complaint in Superior Court for possession of the unit, the $19, and another $700 in attorney fees and costs. Melissa identified defects in the three-day notice to pay rent or quit and advocated to opposing counsel on behalf of her client, pointing out that her client repeatedly tried to give the landlord the money and showing him evidence of the landlord’s retaliatory motives in bringing the action. The opposing counsel dismissed the case.

Professor Juliet Brodie directs the Community Law Clinic. Danielle Jones and Lisa Douglass serve as Staff Attorneys, and Nisha Vyas is a Clinical Teaching Fellow. Lupe Buenrostro and Adelina Arroyo provide excellent administrative support.