Third-year law student Hilary Bricken, one of the students in Miami Law's Tenants' Rights Clinic, argued her first case in court as a certified legal intern and won. In this case, Miami-Dade County was seeking to evict the client for violating a stipulation she signed in 2008. Bricken conducted the entire hearing herself, including doing the opening argument, a cross examination of the site manager, a direct examination of the client, and the closing argument.
The client is the mother of seven children and an active member in her community. She came to the Tenants' Rights Clinic after being told by her site manager that she violated her stipulation agreement.
"My client had no clue what the site manager was talking about," explained Bricken. "The site manager told my client that she would be evicted as soon as possible, had no course of action in court, and would not be able to get a lawyer to listen to her. My client was frightened that she was going to lose her housing and be out on the street."
Bricken, under the supervision of Clinic Director Jeffrey Hearne of Legal Services of Greater Miami, filed a response to the county's complaint. The judge on the case then entered an ex-parte judgment in favor of the county, with an order for possession of the client's home. Bricken then filed an emergency motion to stay the Writ of Possession and to vacate the Final Judgment.
"The allegations on behalf of the county were vague at best," said Bricken. "With Jeff's guidance, we were able to show that Miami-Dade County had not carried their burden of proof regarding my client's violation of her stipulation. After hearing both sides, the judge ruled in our favor, declaring that Miami-Dade had not proved their case that my client had violated her stipulation. My client was permitted to keep her home."
The Tenant's Rights Clinic is one of Miami Law's newest clinics and is based at Legal Services of Greater Miami. The clinic is designed to allow students to represent a client from the beginning of a case until its completion and primarily involves clients being evicted from public and subsidized housing, receiving Section 8 terminations, and having their affordable housing applications denied.
"The experience was extremely rewarding," said Bricken. "My client cried and hugged me after the hearing. This clinic, so far, is one of the best decisions I have made as a law student. Just being in court this one time, representing a deserving client, advocating zealously on her behalf, has helped me develop a confidence the classroom cannot provide. I am very thankful for Jeff's tutelage and the experiences I have had so far."