A Word from the Executive Director
We have so much to be thankful for. Training law students means we have an incredible opportunity to shape the next generation of lawyers and leaders – making things right for consumers, right for immigrants, right for workers, and right for us all. We are on the frontlines ensuring access to justice. That gives us hope.
Below read about our Consumer Practice and be inspired by the law student’s tireless efforts on behalf of others. We are quite thankful to you, our community of supporters. Your year-end gift will help us continue to bring hope and stability to communities in need.
Wishing you a happy holiday season. Peace and blessings!
Deborah Moss West
To Consumer Law Student Evan Miller, a Case He Helped Settle Hits Close to Home
This semester second-year law student Evan Miller helped his client recover money illegally obtained by a collection agency. Mr. M, a single father of two, became aware of the situation when his bank card was declined while grocery-shopping with his young daughters. As Evan reviewed the facts of the case, he discovered that Mr. M had lived two blocks from where Evan grew up, bringing the situation literally closer to home.
“Mr. M. is a person that I could have encountered at the grocery store as a kid. This really crystallized things for me in that unjust things happen to people around you. I was very happy to be of service to Mr. M”, said Evan.
The money in dispute was from an alleged debt to a California homeowners association (HOA) for fees he never incurred. In fact, Mr. M was living in a different state at the time the fees were charged. The HOA sued Mr. M in Small Claims Court and proceeded to ’serve’ Mr. M at an address unfamiliar to him. Never knowing about the claim, Mr. M did not attend the hearing and a judgment was issued against him for over $3,000. The HOA assigned the debt to the collection agency, which proceeded to levy the amount from Mr. M’s bank account.
“The collection agency was not very helpful in trying to resolve the dispute, and ultimately they could not provide proof of residence for Mr. M,” said Evan, who wrote the mediation brief to try to get the collection agency to settle the case in favor of Mr. M. “There were a lot of moving parts before and during the negotiation, and I had to learn every single issue extremely well. That certainly made a difference during the negotiation.”
In the end, Evan and Scott Maurer, the Law Center’s Consumer Law Supervising Attorney, were able to completely void the judgment against Mr. M and help him recover $2,500 in statutory damages. “This experience was unlike an internship where you work on the sidelines. I appreciated being in the driver’s seat most of the time, all while having the flexibility to learn as I went along,” concludes Evan.
Law Students Win Consumer Case and Set the Stage for Major Legislative Impact from Sacramento
Law students in the Consumer Practice settled a case in favor of a client defrauded by a dealer in a car sale. The settlement prompted Sacramento legislators to revise an existing law that made a person’s immigration status “irrelevant to the issue of liability, and in proceedings or discovery” in labor, employment, civil rights and housing cases. Thanks to the work of the Law Center, that list of cases now includes consumer cases.
The client, Mr. G, purchased a used car from a dealership, and within approximately two months he began experiencing problems with its transmission. Suspecting that he may been misled about the history of the vehicle, Mr. G ran his own Carfax report. The report revealed that the car had been part of a rental fleet – a fact that was not revealed by the seller at the time of purchase as required by California law and a condition that would have dissuaded Mr. G. from purchasing the car. He promptly tried to rescind the contract, but the dealer refused to cancel or offer any relief whatsoever. Mr. G was therefore forced to continue using the vehicle until the transmission failed completely.
Beginning in the summer of 2016, students Nishtha Jolly, Jon Drennan, Toni Coaston and Stephen H. Curd worked with Mr. G to prepare his legal claim.
Although the dealer in question had advertised heavily on Spanish language television and notified potential customers they could obtain financing with ‘just a matricula’ (an identity document issued by the Mexican government), it attempted to turn Mr. G’s immigration status into an issue. When KGACLC students refused to respond to inquiries into Mr. G’s citizenship and immigration status, the dealer filed a motion to compel responses. The court rejected the dealership’s motion.
By the end of the fall 2017 semester, KGACLC students had not only obtained full restitution of Mr. G’s payments but also compensation for alternate transportation during the time he could not use his car. In addition, moving forward, a person’s immigration status cannot be used as a shield for fraud or abuse.
“Mr. G is the kind of client that makes you obsessively over-prepare for everything because he deserves to win – and you want to be the person who makes that happen,” says third-year law student Stephen H. Curd, one of the students who closed the case this semester. “Mr. G was profoundly grateful to the Center and all the students who helped him, and I’m just happy I had a part to play in making him whole so he could put this situation and the stress it brought him into the past.”
A New Partnership with the Santa Clara County Superior Court Brings Law Center Services Even Closer to Those in Need
The Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center (the Law Center) is partnering with the Santa Clara County Superior Court to provide services to under-represented, low-income litigants and consumers. Starting in January 2018, defendants in collection cases, individuals experiencing disputes with a business and those in need of foreclosure prevention services may receive legal advice through clinics at the Court’s Self-Help Center, located at 201 North First Street in San Jose on any Wednesday between the hours of 11:30 and 3:00 p.m.
The Court Clinic provides a unique opportunity for law students to become familiar with working in a courthouse environment while bringing services even closer to those in need.
Visit the clinic’s webpage to learn more about appointments and types of issues addressed.
Law Center Staff Mirna Henriquez is a Phenomenal Woman Indeed
Alexander Community Law Center staff member Mirna Henriquez was unanimously selected by a panel of judges as a recipient of the 2017 Building Peaceful Families and the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy Phenomenal Woman Award. A Phenomenal Woman is one who has faced many challenges and overcome adversities. She was recognized during a luncheon on Friday, October 13, 2017 at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.
When Mirna was younger, her mother worked all night as a janitor while Mirna cared for her younger brother and sister. When she completed high school, she attended Evergreen Community College; however, because of financial challenges and the need to help her mother, she could not continue her schooling for 2 years. Eventually, she was able to enroll at San Jose State University (SJSU) and work her way through school. In spring 2016, she graduated from SJSU with a B.A. in Business Administration. In addition to working as the receptionist at the Law Center during the day, she often participates as an interpreter for clients and law students during the evening Workers’ Rights Clinic. Recently she has also conducted outreach to unaccompanied minors. Mirna is resilient, conscientious, highly motivated, intelligent, and committed to social justice. The attorneys, students, and clients praise her for her dedication, her efficiency, her organizational skills, her professionalism, her patience, and her empathy. These qualities have helped her to succeed despite the obstacles she has faced in her life. She is clearly a Phenomenal Woman and a valuable asset to the Alexander Community Law Center.
Deborah Moss-West Receives Prestigious Award for her Contributions to Diversity in the Legal Profession
On November 14, 2017 Deborah Moss-West, Alexander Community Law Center Executive Director, received a 2017 Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award for her “dedication to working in a unified manner to advance the cause of diversity in the legal profession.” Moss-West, also a Board Member of the Charles Houston Bar Association, received this prestigious award during the event held at UC Hastings College of the Law.
“Any number of our members could have received this award for their commitment to diversity, not just in name but in deed. I am humbled and quite grateful to be in the company of the other honorees,” said Ms. Moss-West.
We congratulate our Executive Director on this well-deserved recognition.