Intern Litigation

Summer 2011

Summer internships at LANC are for law students who want to gain experience working in a public interest setting and desire opportunities to do more than just legal research.  Below are just a few examples of victories that LANC's 2011 summer interns scored for our clients:
 

LANC-Ahoskie Office - Landlord/Tenant (2); Unemployment

Michael Hinton - Law Student, Campbell University School of Law  Michael Hinton, a MLK summer intern in the
  LANC-Ahoskie Office and a law student at Campbell
  University School of Law, successfully represented a
  mother and child who was being evicted
from the
  Elizabeth City Housing Authority today, June 10th.
  [The tenant had previously been a domestic violence
  client of LANC-Ahoskie Office, had been represented by a LANC staff attorney and had received a DVPO.]  The abuser/father of child had been banned from the ECHA due to two incidents of his returning to the property and trying to force his way in.  The ECHA had based their eviction on the "One Strike Policy", and stated she was allowing him to reside there, and for having a banned person as a boarder/lodger.  Michael represented the tenant in a formal grievance hearing before a hearing officer, and the client was not evicted
In another matter, Michael also went head to head in a summary ejectment hearing against a "seasoned" private attorney and won a non payment of rent hearing. Our disabled client had been from hospital to rehab and had been able to pay his rent until the nursing home moved him into long term care. At that time, they began taking all of his social security check to pay for his upkeep, which prevented him from making payments to the Housing Authority. Michael successfully argued that the non payment of rent was not a serious or repeated breach of the lease agreement, and that client could pay the delinquent rent, and the magistrate ruled in his favor.
Also, Michael successfully defended a client in an appeals hearing for unemployment benefits.  The client had been terminated from her employment for alleged misconduct.  The client contended that she had been fired in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor.  The appeals referee found that there was no misconduct on the part of the client, and ruled that the client was entitled to a maximum benefit amount of $4, 400.
[Article submitted by Lynda Whitehead-Taylor, Managing Attorney, LANC-Ahoskie Office.]
 

LANC-Asheville Office - Unemployment Benefits 

Josh Nielsen - Law Student, Elon University School of Law  Congratulations to Josh Nielsen, a MLK summer intern
  in the LANC-Asheville Office and a law student at the
  Elon University School of Law, on winning his first
  hearing!
 Josh successfully proved no misconduct in a
  ESC hearing
for a client who had been employed
  by a large hospital for 30 years.  His advocacy resulted
  in more than $9,000 of unemployment benefits for a very happy client.
[Article submitted by Angie Dorsey, Senior Managing Attorney, LANC-Asheville Office.]
 

LANC-Durham Office - Domestic Violence/LL-Tenant/Public Benefits

Sarah Goodin Smith - Law Student, UNC School of Law  Sarah Goodin Smith, a MLK summer intern in the
  LANC-Durham Office and a rising 3L at the UNC School
  of Law,
successfully represented a domestic violence
  client in a 50B case
.  Sarah interviewed the client,
  prepared the case for hearing AND successfully negotiated
  a consent order with terms which were favorable to our
  client.  Although negotiations were lengthy, Sarah obtained an order which benefitted our client.  Sarah also successfully represented a housing client in a Small Claims hearing.  The landlord filed a summary ejectment complaint against the Legal Aid client.  However, there were serious habitability issues with the dwelling.  Sarah interviewed the client, conducted an investigation and prepared counterclaims on the habitability issues.  At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, the magistrate reduced by one-half the amount of back rent owed to the landlord AND awarded the client prospective rent abatement until the repairs are completed!  Sarah also assisted a client whose SSA benefits were to be terminated due to an overpayment.  The SSA benefits are the client's sole income.  Sarah assisted the client with completion of necessary paperwork, went to the local SSA office to consult in person with SSA staff and worked out minimal payment terms.  As a result, client's SSA benefits have been restored.  Sarah also worked on several Medicaid appeal cases. She obtained medical records, conducted client interviews, communicated with departments of social services and physicians, conducted assessment and research regarding the Social Security Disability Listings and in one case prepared arguments for a brief which ultimately resulted in the client being awarded Medicaid benefits.  In response to a request from Central Children's Home, a Rural Community Development Initiative client, Sarah conducted research on HIPPA compliance and wage and hour guidelines.  The research will be used in a staff training at Central Children's Home.
[Article submitted by Maccene Brown, Managing Attorney, LANC-Durham Office.]

LANC Farmworker Unit - Employment/Unemployment

Elsa Clausen - Law Student, University of Maryland School of law  Congratulations to FWU (LANC Farmworker Unit)
  volunteer law intern
Elsa Clausen, who recently won an
  unemployment hearing
for a client who quit her job when
  she was refused a change in work assignment in a poultry
  plant.  The client had previously worked cutting
  chickens, suffered a hand injury, and had been assigned to other work to avoid further injury to her hand.  Then the client's elderly father became ill, needing her care, so she requested a change in shift.  On the new shift, the client was reassigned to work cutting chickens.  The referee found that the change in assignment, which rendered it impossible for the client to work on this shift and care for her father constituted a quit for good cause attributable to the employer.  Elsa is a rising 3L at the University of Maryland School of Law's night division and has experience clerking for Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland's Farmworker Division and the Centro de Derechos Migrantes in Zacatecas, Mexico.  The LANC Farmworker Unit is lucky to have her this summer!
[Article submitted by Marylee Hall,  Managing Attorney, LANC-Farmworker Unit.]
 

LANC-Fayetteville Office - Employment Benefits

Ashley V.M. Smith - Law Student, Elon University School of Law  Ashley Smith, a MLK summer intern in the LANC-
  Fayetteville Office and a rising 3L at the Elon University
  School of Law, did a superb job all summer and was very
  involved in a variety of cases, however, every time she
  prepared for battle, they were always continued by
  opposing counsel or adverse party.  She didn't think she'd
  ever get to try a case.  But, alas, the day before her last day she was scheduled for a hearing before the NC Employment Security Commission (ESC).  Prior to contacting LANC, the client had applied for unemployment benefits but was denied.  The client appealed, and Ashley represented her at the hearing.  Ashley was able to get the prior decision reversed and a ruling was entered in client's favor stating client was not disqualified for unemployment benefits.  An excellent ending to a great summer of advocacy.
[Article submitted by Toni Pinkston, Managing Attorney, LANC-Fayetteville Office.]
 

LANC-Fayetteville Office - Domestic Violence

Teirryicah ("Erica") D. Mitchell - Law Student, Wake Forest University School of Law  Tierryicah ("Erica") Mitchell, a 2010 summer intern in
  the LANC-Fayetteville Office and a rising 3L law student at
  Wake Forest University School of Law; tried a DVPO
  matter on June 29.  The matter was highly contested with a
  very seasoned attorney representing the adverse party
  ("AP").  There was no physical abuse.  The request for DVPO was based on AP's control and harassment that resulted in our client experiencing substantial emotional distress.  Tierryicah obtained a 120-day protective order for our client.  Congratulations, Tierryicah!
[Article submitted by Toni Pinkston, Managing Attorney, LANC-Fayetteville Office.]
 

LANC-Gastonia Office - Consumer Law

Ben Halfill (MLK summer intern in the LANC-Gastonia Office and a rising 3L at the Wake Forest University School of Law) came back to the Gastonia on August 22 to argue in Gaston Superior Court in opposition to mortgage lender Sun Trust's Rule 60 motion to set aside an order we had obtained dismissing their foreclosure against our client!  [By way of background, our office had previously obtained the dismissal order because Sun Trust failed to prove, at the earlier Superior Court hearing, that it was the noteholder for our client's mortgage, which showed an assignment to Crestar and not Sun Trust.  Incredibly enough, at the earlier Superior Ct hearing, Sun Trust's counsel had no idea that Crestar had been merged with Sun Trust.  With his Rule 60 motion, Sun Trust's counsel was presenting the court with the articles of merger for Crestar and Sun Trust and requesting that the foreclosure be allowed since Sun Trust was, as the owner of Crestar, in fact, the holder of the client's mortgage.] After diligent research, Ben came to the Rule 60 hearing ready to dismantle, one by one, each argument offered by opposing counsel to set aside the dismissal order.  It was a difficult hearing, because Ben's bottom line argument was that opposing counsel's inexcusable neglect could not afford him the relief he was seeking and, of course, it is no easy task to criticize the work of an attorney in open court, particularly when you are not yet one yourself.  Ben handled the task with poise and grace, as I fully expected he would.  He struck a careful and respectful tone with opposing counsel but, at the same time, made it clear to the court that we were in the right, legally speaking.  The judge was convinced and, thanks to Ben, our client will remain in his home!  Congratulations, Ben!
[Article submitted by Sharon Dove, managing attorney, LANC-Gastonia Office.]
 

LANC-Hayesville Office - Employment matters

Joseph Chilton - Law Student, UNC School of Law  Joseph Chilton (a MLK summer intern in the
  LANC-Hayesville Office and a law student at the
  UNC School of Law) provided timely assistance to
  Hinton Rural Life Cente
r under the LANC Rural
  Community Development Initiatives   grant, by assisting
  the new Hinton CEO with employment issues including
  wage and hour, OSHA, Fair Labor Standards Act, job descriptions and many others.  In a CAP transfer of assets case, he was successful in developing a theory upon which Macon DSS reduced the uncompensated transfer amount by 50% based upon his documentation of recipient's expenses previously paid by the transferee, and undue hardship waiver still pending for the remainder.  He was extremely helpful in a retaliatory eviction case which is still pending.  His assistance with the many varied matters which arise in domestic violence cases is greatly appreciated. 
[Article submitted by Kelley Bonfoey, Supervising Attorney, LANC-Sylva Office.]
 

LANC-New Bern Office - Domestic Violence & Landlord/Tenant &
                                            Unemployment matters

Troy Reed - Law Student, Charlotte School of Law  Troy Reed, a MLK summer intern in the LANC-New
  Bern Office and a rising 3L law student at the Charlotte
  School of Law, has had a very busy and productive summer.
  He assisted Amber Cronk (staff attorney, LANC-New Bern
  Office) with negotiation of a 50B protective order for
  one of our clients and also helped the client get 50C
  protection
from the abuser's mother and brother.  Troy defended a client in a summary ejectment case in Carteret County.  Troy not only had the action dismissed, his presentation of the facts caused the magistrate to admonish the landlord for his bad acts.  Troy also successfully tried a 50B case in Beaufort County getting our client all the relief for which she had asked.  Troy also represented a client at an ESC hearing.  Our client had to leave his job after being diagnosed with kidney cancer.  After surgery, when the doctor cleared him for work, he learned his employer had replaced him.  Our client filed for unemployment and was denied his benefits.  The adjudicator was overturned and our client was awarded his unemployment benefits.
[Article submitted by David Caddigan, Managing Attorney, LANC-New Bern Office.]
 

LANC-Pittsboro Office - Land Lord/Tenant; Unemployment

Pedra Lee - Law Student, NC Central University School of Law  Pedra Lee (a MLK summer intern in the LANC-Pittsboro
  Office and a rising 3L law student at NC Central University
  School of Law
) drafted a great Answer with Defenses for
  our client in a landlord/tenant case.  LANC was representing
  a client who was a public housing tenant and was being
  evicted from her home in which she had lived since 2004. 
  The Client was the mother of six minor children and was a victim of domestic violence, having been assaulted by the father of her two youngest children.  She reported this to her landlord (housing authority) who then banned the batterer from its complex.  The alleged reason for the eviction was that the Client allowed the batterer on the premises; this information was provided allegedly through hearsay and was not witnessed by landlord's agent or manager.  Once we filed the Answer with Defenses with the Court and served the landlord (housing authority), the landlord voluntarily dismissed eviction action.  Pedra had also drafted Interrogatories in this case which we did not use in light of the dismissal.  In another matter, Pedra successfully represented another client (mother of four children) and obtained full Unemployment Insurance Benefits for her in the amount of $2,354.00.  The Referee's Decision was not appealed.
[Article submitted by Judith E Washington, Staff Attorney, LANC-Pittsboro Office.]
 

LANC-Sylva Office - Cherokee Tribal Court

Bonnie Claxton - Law Student, William Mitchell College of Law  7/25/11 - Bonnie Claxton (a MLK summer intern in the
  LANC-Sylva Office and a rising 3L law student at William
  Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN) has spent the
  summer practicing in the Cherokee tribal court where she
  has represented Eastern Cherokee tribal members in tribal
  court proceedings involving domestic violence and child
  custody issues.  Recently in Cherokee tribal court, she obtained an ex parte custody Order for a former domestic violence victim whose abuser had just been released from prison and who posed a threat to the victim.  She has successfully negotiated several consent orders in civil domestic violence cases and had a hearing and obtained a divorce Order in Cherokee tribal court.  While in Cherokee tribal court this summer, she has practiced with Rob Saunooke, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who works with the Native American American Bar Association committee on a national basis and whom she had first met at a national conference on Federal Indian Law prior to her summer internship.  Recently in state court she was able to use her Spanish speaking skills in negotiating a consent order in a domestic violence case in which the parties were both Hispanic and spoke Spanish.  The consent Domestic Violence Protective Order included Chapter 50 Custody for our client and transferred title to a vehicle to our client in court that same day.  She has also assisted the staff attorneys with a variety of other cases, including investigating several Medicaid In-Home Care for Adults cases in order to prepare for mediations in which the clients appealed notices of terminations of their services.  The cases were successful at mediation and one in particular was successful in that the client's service hours were increased from what they were before the termination notice.  Bonnie is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation and is the President of the Native American Law Students' Association at her law school.  She grew up in Cullowhee, NC and hopes to return to North Carolina after she graduates from law school.
[Article submitted by Kelley Bonfoey, Supervising Attorney, LANC-Sylva Office.]
 

LANC-Wilson Office - Employment & Consumer Law

Marianella Medelius-Marsano - Law Student, Ohio Northern University College of Law  Marianella Medelius-Marsano, a MLK summer
  intern
in the LANC-Wilson Office and a rising 3L law
  student at Ohio Northern University College of Law in
  Ada, Ohio)
handled two, in-person appeals hearings
  before the NC Employment Security Commission
  (ESC)
.  Maria interviewed the clients and worked up the case, preparing direct and cross examination and the closing statement.  One client was fired for allegedly falsifying her time sheet; Maria successfully demonstrated that our client's error was a simply timekeeping mistake, not an intentionally false entry.  The other client was fired for excessive absenteeism; Maria successfully demonstrated that our client always provided proper notification of an absence and that all of her attendance violations were related to medical issues.  Both clients were awarded full benefits.  On another matter, Maria's provided research on an issue regarding the dischargeability of a debt in bankruptcy court.  Our client filed a bankruptcy and among the debts she owes, she seeks to discharge the unpaid balance on a contract debt owed to a building contractor.  The client stated that the contractor did shoddy work and did not complete all work; therefore, she did not pay the balance of the contract.  The contractor has filed an objection to discharge, alleging that our client defrauded him under this contract. issues included what constitutes breach in performance sufficient to excuse payment.  Maria also assisted in the drafting of the trial brief on this issue.  After the brief was prepared, we received notice from the bankruptcy court about a recent US Supreme Court case related to ability to raise state law claims in a bankruptcy proceeding.  Maria and the attorney researched and prepared a supplemental brief to address the court's inquiry.  The trial is set for late August 2011.
[Article submitted by John Keller, Supervising Attorney, LANC-Wilson Office.]
 

LANC-Winston-Salem Office - Summer Law Clerks

2011 Summer Law Clerks, LANC-Winston-Salem OfficeThe 2011 summer law clerks provided their reflections of their work experiences in a special edition of the LANC-Winston-Salem Office's "LANC News" newsletter, August 2011.
 
In photo (l-r) Tiffany Tyler (Wake Forest University School of Law); Crystal Sumner (Elon University School of Law); Villy Stolper (Wake Forest University School of Law); Nora Rahimzadeh (Appalachian School of Law); Rick Kettler (Charlotte School of Law); Bonnie Ansley (NC Central University School of Law); and Tina Flowers (Wake Forest University School of Law).
[Click here to view the August 2010 edition of "LANC-News" LANC-Winston-Salem Office (Special Edition, Reflections of 2011 Summer Law Interns).]

 

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Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity.

 

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