Although the Tenants' Rights Clinic only started its semester in mid-January, clinic student and certified legal intern, Kevin Hirsh, has already successfully argued his first case in court.
In this case, the Clinic represented a single mother with three children who live in HUD-subsidized housing. The landlord wanted to evict the client after a man, with whom she had no connection, ran into her apartment during a police raid. Hirsh was assigned the case at the beginning of the semester and represented the client at court-ordered mediation.
Hirsh argued that the tenant would ultimately prevail because the landlord waived its right to evict by not timely filing the eviction. The landlord was unwilling to settle and allow the client to remain living at the property, so the parties reached an impasse.
After mediation, the judge set a bench trial for March, but scheduled a hearing to allow Hirsh to argue whether the court would allow him to amend the client's pro-se answer to include the waiver defense, as well as a demand for a jury trial and attorney's fees.
Hirsh drafted a memorandum of law to support his two arguments: under the summary procedure used in evictions, a tenant may use the rules of civil procedure to amend an answer and that the recent jury demand was timely because it related back to the date of the tenant's pro se answer. Hirsh argued the motion at a hearing on January 26th. After hearing the argument, the judge granted the motion, allowed the amended answer to be filed, and scheduled the jury trial for March.
As a result of this successful motion, the landlord recognized it was unlikely to prevail in the case and voluntarily dismissed the eviction, allowing the client to stay in her home. Because the tenant prevailed, the landlord will be required to pay attorney's fees to the Clinic.
"Although the judge initially seemed skeptical of his argument, Kevin convinced the judge that our position was supported by the law,” said Clinic Director Jeffrey Hearne. “Prevailing on this procedural motion ultimately allowed us to win the case and keep our client and her family in their home."
The Tenants' Rights Clinic is offered each Spring semester and is based at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., and gives students the opportunity to represent low-income clients with landlord-tenant disputes.
“Working in the Clinic has been quite an eye opener,” said Hirsh. “It’s been a great opportunity to practice fundamental lawyering skills, and it’s given me a great deal of perspective on the severe consequences of evictions, especially for low-income clients. The dismissal came as quite a surprise at first, but I’m honored to have been able to help my client and her family avoid homelessness.”