When Cleveland-Marshall College of Law opened its new Civil Litigation Clinic this semester, it had two goals. The first was for students to practice real-life law. The second was for local residents to obtain quality legal representation at no cost. Just weeks into the clinics’ operation, C|M|LAW 2L students Joe Libretti and Justin Washburne have achieved both.
Libretti and Washburne represented Mr. C, who was sued by a national debt collector for the amount of several thousand dollars on account of an alleged credit card debt. By the time the students received the case, the complaint has already been filed, the answer was served, and “discovery” – the process of pre-trial requests of evidence – was well under way. It appeared that the national debt collector was determined to reclaim its alleged debt, even after being notified that Mr. C. was represented.
Libretti and Washburne took to work and studied the facts of the case closely, noting that the debt collector had very little evidence – if any – of the alleged debt. They conducted thorough research of the law, preparing a carefully planned strategy of litigation and authored letter to the major law firm representing the debt collector, explaining in detail how they would like to conduct depositions in this matter. The pair planned to force the plaintiffs to appear locally for deposition, a decision that could prove costly for the out-of-state company.
After reviewing the letter, the national debt collector responded by notifying the court that they were withdrawing their complaint. Shortly thereafter, the case was dismissed.
“I think this case may well illustrate the great benefits of the clinic – both for the students and for the clients,” said Professor Doron Kalir, the C|M|LAW Clinical Professor who supervised both students on this matter. “The students have learned that careful preparation, research, and planning pays off – even against big and powerful law firms. The client has learned that with proper cooperation, the clinic can be a powerful counsel.”
The students were equally satisfied. “It was good opportunity to use the civil procedure skills that I’ve learned here, as well as my evidence skills and even some constitutional law,” said Libretti. “It’s great to be able to make the practical application of information from classes.”
With the successful dismissal of the case, the students had the pleasure of sharing that news with Mr. C, who was thrilled with the result.
“I gave him a call and he called back immediately and just wanted to thank everyone involved in his case for getting the situation handled for him,” said Washburne.
For Libretti and Washburne, the case was satisfying not just as a legal victory, but also as an opportunity to give back to the community. If Mr.C had not sought legal representation from the Clinic, it is probable that he would have been forced to pay the debt collectors after a default judgment.
“I really liked working for this client because he lives just minutes from my house,” remarked Washburne, a native Clevelander. “I think companies may sometimes take advantage of people who are in a vulnerable financial position and are not knowledgeable about the law. It was satisfying to be able to represent and protect someone who was being taken advantage of by a big company.”
Professor Kalir agrees. “We’re here to help our community with actual cases, not to deal with philosophical legal concepts,” he explained about this Clinic, one of several legal clinics currently operating at Cleveland-Marshall.
“We have the time, the man power, and the legal firepower to assist those being unjustly pursued,” Kalir continued. “We cannot guarantee results in litigation, but we’re here to help.”