Civil Litigation Students Win in Eighth District Court of Appeals

Posted 2018-04-03 1:22pm

After a representation spanning more than two years, Cleveland-Marshall Civil Litigation Clinic students were successful in securing unemployment benefits for client Lemmie Smoot by obtaining a reversal of a benefit denial from the Eighth District Court of Appeals.  The representation spanned multiple classes of Clinic students with more than a dozen working on the case in various capacities.

“I was very impressed by the representation of these students,” said Smoot.  “Every step of the process, from phone interviews to the court appearances, these students did an excellent job presenting the information.”

Smoot was terminated by her former employer in December 2015. Her claim for unemployment benefits was denied.  Soon thereafter, she came to the Clinic for assistance in her administrative appeal. Clinic students Sarah Mancuso ’17 and Kevin Klekota ’16 interviewed Smoot, then prepared for and represented her at an Unemployment Compensation Review Commission (UCRC) hearing. The UCRC Hearing Officer ruled against claimant Smoot.  A Request for Review was also denied.

The Clinic elected to take Smoot’s case to the Common Pleas Court, where students drafted and filed briefs, arguing that Smoot, who worked at a membership-based community center where she had a spotless employee record, was wrongly blamed for defending herself from the last of a series of attacks on her by a member. Again, her appeal was unsuccessful.

The Clinic appealed the case further to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, where Clinic students filed additional briefs. Clinic students Barbara Martincic and Lauren Holler prepared diligently for the argument, which Martincic effectively presented to the court in October 2017.

In January 2018, the Court issued a favorable decision for the Clinic’s client, agreeing with the students’ argument that the UCRC wrongfully ignored evidence that the events leading to Smoot’s firing had all been initiated by the member. Because she was not terminated for a just cause, Smoot is now eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

“It was very important for me to win this case and without the support of this Clinic, I probably would have been forced to drop the case long ago,” said Smoot.

“It feels great to have been able to use my legal education to help Ms. Smoot,” said Klekota. “She got a raw deal from her former employer, and she was treated unfairly. Using my legal education to try to right such wrongs and help a client in need is exactly what I went to law school to do.”

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