We begin this new academic year with a spirit of excitement and hope. The past few years have been something . . . but our faculty, staff, and students are thankfully still standing, eager to engage in the work of serving the community like never before.
We don’t do our work alone. Thanks to a committed community of supporters the Law Center continues to provide free legal services for low-income individuals with consumer, immigration, and workers’ rights matters. Below, we highlight our Consumer Practice, whose service delivery model includes community education and outreach, advice clinics at the Superior Court, and direct representation. The efforts make a difference not only for the individual consumer client but also for the public good.
Also, please join our annual virtual Celebration, “Community, Commitment & Courage,” on Wednesday, September 28th at 5:30 pm. Let’s gather together once again to Celebrate excellence and give thanks! I look forward to seeing you there!
The Consumer Law Practice, led by Scott Maurer ’95 (clinical professor) and Reuben Castillo (paralegal) trains law students to provide free legal services for low-income individuals who have been victimized as consumers and debtors by unfair business practices and fraud. “Nothing beats working with bright-eyed bushy-tailed students who have never seen things like triple-digit interest rates before. I had a great group of students this past year and that helps keep my batteries charged,” says Maurer.
The major types of cases handled include: Consumer issues – fraud while purchasing a new or a used car; car repossession or towing issues; debt collection harassment; notario or paralegal fraud; fraud and deceptive practice in conjunction with door-to-door sales. Debtors’ issues – identity theft; unconscionable lending practices, alternatives to bankruptcy; credit reporting problems.
Below are select success stories illustrating the depth and breadth of the direct service work. Each matter is ably handled by a law student working under supervision. Nearly every consumer case that Law Center students take to court has resulted in a favorable outcome for the client. In addition, students demonstrate competence or excellence in a number of important skills including interviewing and advising, brief-writing, drafting discovery requests and responses, motion practice, taking depositions, and conducting negotiations.
DISMISSALS – UNCONSCIONABLE Interest rates: Two Law Center students recently forced the dismissal of suits that attempted to enforce loan contracts bearing interest rates of 187% and 138% respectively.
CASE DISMISSED: Our client was sued on a disputed debt. Four years after the suit was filed and the creditor still had not requested a trial, our client moved out of state. The law student handling the case filed a successful motion to dismiss for lack of prosecution, then filed a successful motion for attorneys’ fees.
DISMISSAL plus full restitution, penalties, judgment set aside: A client came to the Center for help because his wages had been garnished for a debt he knew nothing about. The Law Center determined that the judgment had been obtained based on an improper proof of service of summons at the client’s former address. The Center had provided evidence to the judgment creditor that our client had never been properly served and that he did not owe the debt. After the debt buyer ignored that evidence, a law student prepared and filed a complaint attacking the prior judgment. A second student negotiated a settlement providing for full restitution of all funds taken from the client’s wages, statutory penalties, a set-aside of the underlying judgment, and a dismissal of that case with prejudice.
DEMAND LETTER success: Another client came to the Law Center after his vehicle had been wrongfully repossessed by an auto title loan company the client had never borrowed from! The title company had already acknowledged it had made a mistake and had returned the vehicle to our client, but refused to compensate him for rental expenses. The Law Center demand letter caused the lender to reconsider. The lender not only paid all of the client’s rental expenses, it paid an additional $3,400 in statutory damages.
In addition to bringing peace of mind and economic stability for the clients they serve, law students leave with a clearer understanding of the legal needs of low-income consumers, and hopefully a social justice lens for future work.
“Assisting clients with legal disputes and teaching law students that they can make a difference never gets old. And witnessing the student response to a positive client outcome is priceless. That’s why we are here,” explains Castillo.
WE ARE COMMUNITY – LAW CENTER TEAMS WITH THE LATINX LAW STUDENT ASSOCIATION AND THE SANTA CLARA COUNTY LA RAZA LAWYERS ASSOCIATION
For the past year, the Law Center has teamed with the Latinx Law Student Association and the Santa Clara County La Raza Lawyers Association to provide outreach at a community farm in East San Jose. The outreach is educational in nature with the goal of providing information about available legal and community resources in Santa Clara County.
The Law Center was started by La Raza law students who saw a need to help day-laborers receive owed wages and opened its doors as the East San Jose Community Law Center in 1994. So, the connection runs deep as does the desire to collaborate with alumni who were around in the early days. The outreach is a great way for law students to build their communication and legal translation skills and to bond while learning and helping others. The outreach is a pipeline activity because we get the chance to speak with people about the path to law school and careers in law. We engage in good conversation, listen, and learn.
The collaboration is going strong and, as the program grows, we will engage more volunteer lawyers. “As one of the founding students, I really want to keep the Law Center connected to its east side roots. I am pleased to team with three groups that I love – law students, La Raza Lawyers, and the Law Center – to get out in the community,” explains Sylvia Kennedy ’94, Law Center Advisory Board member.
Thanks, Sylvia, for your longstanding commitment to the Law Center and volunteer efforts at the community farm!
LAW CENTER ADVISORY BOARD
The Law Center is pleased to welcome Santa Clara Law alum Brittany Hynsi to the Advisory Board:
Brittany Hynsi JD `09 The Upper Deck Company
Brittany Hynsi is a Santa Clara Law alumna, who has been licensed in California since December 2009 and in New York since November 2011. She is currently the Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs and General Counsel of The Upper Deck Company, where she’s worked since 2010. Ms. Hysni’s work includes a broad variety of matters, both on the business and legal side, focused predominantly on negotiating license agreements with entertainment and sports groups as well as individuals. Her reach extends to several practice areas such as consumer, litigation, and employment issues and disputes. Prior to Upper Deck and during Ms. Hysn’s first few years at Upper Deck, focused mainly on commercial litigation.
“During my third year in school, I participated in the consumer rights practice at the Law Center and loved it. Not only was it the most practical experience I received during law school, but I really enjoyed the people, as well as working with and helping different members of the community. The skills provided an excellent framework for my current practice. I am pleased to give back by serving on the Advisory Board.” Ms. Hynsi is a shining example of how the Law Center experience translates to being practice ready. We are delighted that she will use her knowledge and expertise to be of service to Law Center students, staff, and clients. Welcome!
Please join our annual Celebration fundraising event on Wednesday, September 28th at 5:30 p.m. This lively, hour-long virtual night of Celebration will include recognition of special honorees, an update on the Law Center’s work, much inspiration, and more!
2022 CELEBRATION HONOREES
Community Award Step Forward Foundation
Commitment Award Macias Rodriguez Adams LLP
Courage Award Our Clients
Email email@example.com if you have any questions about the event. You can donate, sponsor or register online now for this free community-building virtual Celebration!
Interested in volunteering or joining our Advisory Board?