The Consumer Law Clinic got off to a busy start this summer. Just two weeks into the semester, Chauntel Grant argued a Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs in a foreclosure case. After four years of litigation, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed its foreclosure action against one of the Clinic’s clients. Since the plaintiff dismissed, the Clinic’s client is the prevailing party and therefore entitled to fees.
Chauntel Grant argued in a 45 minute hearing the Clinic’s entitlement to fees and questioned a fee expert who testified to the reasonableness of the fees. All of the Consumer Law Clinic students attended the hearing and lent their support and assistance in preparing for the hearing. We are still waiting on the judge’s ruling and are optimistic it will be a favorable decision. Next, the Clinic currently has three foreclosure cases set for trial and a deposition in July. It is shaping up to be a busy and very educational summer!
After four years of litigation, the Consumer Law Clinic won a foreclosure case last month. The judge dismissed Chase’s foreclosure action against our clients finding Chase did not have standing (i.e. did not prove it owned our clients’ loan) when it filed its lawsuit. Since it did not own the loan at the inception of the lawsuit, it was not entitled to sue our clients. Since our clients are now the prevailing party in the lawsuit, the Clinic is entitled to its fees and costs for the four years of litigating the lawsuit. Kudos to Certified Legal Intern Luis Fermin who spent the past year working on this case and arguing at two separate hearings!
In an effort to reduce the number of foreclosure cases on the docket, the Duval County court recently set thousands of foreclosure cases for trial in the month of April. Approximately 50 cases have been set every hour for two hours every morning. Needless to say, this has kept the Consumer Law Clinic hopping since half of its cases are foreclosure cases. Some of our cases have been set for trial and some have not. For the cases that are going to trial unexpectedly, it is a great experience for the students to get some trial experience before the end of the semester. This summer promises to be an action packed summer in the Consumer Law Clinic as well. We have a full case load of foreclosure, debt collection, and bankruptcy cases.
The Consumer Law Clinic recently settled a case on behalf of an active duty sailor. The client purchased a used car from a local used car lot. After purchasing it, he discovered the car had been in an accident and been written off as a total loss by the prior insurance company. The Clinic sued the car dealer on his behalf for deceptive and unfair trade practices. After six months of litigation and the deposition of the owner of the car dealership, the Clinic successfully settled the case in the client’s favor. The client is currently deployed for six months, so it is a great relief to both him and his family to be free from the car. The Consumer Law Clinic routinely accepts cases from both current and former military personnel. Unfortunately, the military are routinely targeted for consumer fraud and are in especial need of the Consumer Law Clinic.
Many students do not seem to realize the value of being a certified legal intern (CLI). Being a CLI means that the Florida Supreme Court allows you to appear in court on behalf of a client under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Only a limited number of positions allow you to become a CLI. For example, if you work for a private law firm, you cannot become a CLI – you have to be in a public interest placement. Most of Coastal’s clinics and externships allow you to become a CLI. Not only does this provide you with an incredibly valuable experience while you are in law school by allowing you to argue motions and trials in court, but you are then eligible for a post graduate CLI. This means that you can continue to practice law under another attorney’s license in an approved program before you receive your own license. Many jobs, such as those with the state attorney’s office or the public defender, will only hire students with a post graduate CLI.
However, the hard part about becoming a CLI is getting your clearance certificate from the Florida Bar. The application for the clearance certificate is not difficult to complete, but it often takes 4-5 months (and can take up to a year) for the Bar to complete the background check and issue the clearance certificate. Everyone should apply for their clearance certificate as early as possible so that you have the certificate in time to apply for a clinic or externship. Even if you do not plan to stay in Florida, the benefits of being a CLI far outweigh the time of completing the clearance certificate application. For more information on the clearance certificate process, please see: http://www.fcsl.edu/clinic/clinical-programs and http://www.floridabarexam.org/.
The Consumer Law Clinic has taken an unprecedented number of depositions this semester – four. The first deposition of the semester happened just two weeks into the semester. One of the summer clinicians stuck around to depose Bank of America in a mortgage foreclosure case. In September, a debt collector deposed our client and we deposed the corporate representative of the debt collector. Then it was another Bank of America deposition in another mortgage foreclosure case. And most recently, the Clinic took the deposition of a local car dealer in an auto fraud case.
Depositions are extremely difficult to take. Not only do they take a great deal of practice and preparation, but developing good deposition skills is a lot like riding a bike – you just have to do it to get good at it. The students in the Consumer Law Clinic have really gotten to work on their deposition skills and at least watch a deposition. Next semester promises to have an equally busy deposition calendar!
Beginning in Spring 2013, the Consumer Law Clinic will be representing consumers in Chapter 7 bankruptcies. Prof. Boeckman is in the process of honing her bankruptcy skills so that students will have the opportunity to represent debtors in Chapter 7, and eventually, in Chapter 13 proceedings in federal court. The Consumer Law Clinic will be litigating bankruptcy cases in addition to the foreclosure defense and debt collection defense cases that it currently handles in state court. If you are interested in practicing bankruptcy law, debtor/creditor law, or real estate, the Consumer Law Clinic is a great opportunity to learn more about these areas of practice and gain valuable experience practicing in these areas!
Coastal Law strongly encourages all students to acquire practical legal work experience while in school. This is consistent with the ABA’s and NALP’s assessment that hands-on learning opportunities are instrumental in preparing new associates for the demands of the practice of law and, likewise, make new lawyers more marketable to employers.
Judicial externships, in particular, are incredible opportunities for students to learn valuable skills and earn academic credit while working directly for a judge or a court. The application process for Judicial Externships for spring 2013 is now open.
The application is due to Professor Laura Boeckman by 5:00 p.m. on September 19, 2012. You must have completed all of your first year courses to be eligible to participate in a judicial externship.
You can find the application and learn more at http://www.fcsl.edu/academics/judicial-externships or you can also attend an informational meeting about the Judicial Externship program on September 17, 2012 from 12:00 until 1:00 p.m. in room 415.
Once again, you are strongly encouraged to apply. If you have any questions, please contact Professor Boeckman.
It has been a very busy start to the semester in the Consumer Law Clinic. Within the first three weeks of the semester, we have 5 hearings and 3 depositions scheduled. Two of our senior clinicians are handling the depositions, but some of the new clinicians are getting to do hearings their second and third week in the clinic.
Two of the upcoming depositions are depositions of mortgage servicers in foreclosure cases. In one case, we have several different versions of the mortgage note that the plaintiff has filed with the court. The plaintiff has amended its complaint twice and each time, the endorsements on the note have changed. It will be an interesting deposition trying to figure out who has been altering these documents and how. The second deposition involves a similar case where documents keep changing as time goes on. Both of the students preparing for the depositions, Luis Fermin and Zachary Keller, have an enormous amount of information to digest and process, but will be very prepared to put the plaintiffs in the hot seat as they try to explain all of the inconsistencies in their documents!
One of the most interesting cases that we have in the Consumer Law Clinic right now deals with a client who was renting a home that was the subject of a foreclosure action. Under federal law, the client’s lease was protected and the client and his family could not be evicted by the new owners of the foreclosed property. However, the new owners of the property are an investment company who wanted our client out of the property. So it proceeded to get an illegal notice of eviction and managed to successfully evict our client and his family when it had no right to. It managed to accomplish this eviction by filing motions with the court without an attorney – Florida law requires all corporations to be represented by counsel in court. In addition to the new owner filing improper motions, the court then granted those motions without giving our client an opportunity to be heard on the motions at a hearing.
Once we brought these mistakes to the court’s attention, the court issued an order to show cause for why the new owners should not be held in contempt of court. We will argue at the show cause hearing in August that the court should hold the owner in contempt of court for its actions and order it to pay our client significant damages for the wrongful eviction. We can only hope that the court will recognize the injustice that has been done to our client, hold the owners in contempt, and award damages for our client.