Five Miami Law Students to Receive Economic Justice Scholarships Funded By Cy Pres Distribution Windfall

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Students who received scholarships with cy pres

(Top) Abril Montero Dokser, Sam Sachs, Lily Liu; (Bottom) Stacey Shenderov & Katherine Johnson 

Miami Law was named the recipient of a $20,000 cy pres distribution from a class-action settlement in Esposito v. I.Q. Data International, Inc., filed in the Middle District of Florida. Michael Esposito brought the case on behalf of himself and other individuals who claimed I.Q. Data International -- in violation of federal and state consumer protection laws -- subjected them to misleading and abusive debt collection practices.

Jordan Shaw, J.D. ’14 and member of the Law Alumni Association Executive Committee, was one of the lead counsels for the class. Consumer litigation attorneys J. Dennis Card, Christopher Legg, and Kevin Rajabalee also assisted in the case. After the case was settled and funds were distributed, there was about $97,000 left after the settlement distribution. The parties (both sides) agreed to distribute the remaining funds to six different organizations, primarily local South Florida legal aid groups and Miami Law received $20,000. The gift to UM was designated explicitly for consumer law-related scholarship.

The donation was used to create and fund the Law Alumni Association Economic Justice Scholarship, awarded to one or more students who demonstrate a commitment to consumer, financial, or other economic justice mission through exemplary service in a clinic or externship. Faculty associated with the law school’s clinical and other experiential programs, including the HOPE Public Interest Resource Center, solicited nominations of top students that have devoted a substantial focus of their law school careers to economic justice through direct client work or policy.

“The class action was brought on behalf of low-income individuals to stop and seek redress for improper interest charges associated with tenant-bonds,” said Shaw, a partner at Zebersky Payne Shaw Lewenz, LLP and chair of the firm’s consumer litigation practice group and co-chair of the firm’s commercial litigation practice group. “We are very pleased that, in addition to providing an opportunity for class members to be heard, our class action litigation funded scholarships for University of Miami Law students dedicated to social and economic justice, creating opportunities outside of the courtroom and inside the classroom.”

Students engaged in clinical training

The committee selected five exemplary students to receive a scholarship of $4,000 each:

Third-year Abril Montero Dokser is a student intern and current fellow of the law school’s Human Rights Clinic, which works for the promotion of social and economic justice globally and in the U.S. Since joining the HRC in the fall of 2020, Montero Dokser has worked tirelessly to promote and protect the human rights to food, land, education, and health of rural and Indigenous women in the Americas. Her extensive interviews with over 50 rural and Indigenous women in Ecuador and Guatemala resulted in civil society reports focused on the rights of these women and submission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women on behalf of the women in Ecuador. As part of her continued work on the right to food, Montero Dokser has also been involved in legislative efforts in the U.S. to enshrine that right in the U.S.

Third-year Katherine (Katie) Johnson is a student intern and fellow of the law school’s Investor Rights Clinic, which provides legal representation to low-income individuals who have suffered losses due to broker misconduct. Since joining the Investor Rights Clinic in her 2L year, Johnson has worked on several of the clinic’s most challenging cases, including a complicated matter involving a 92-year-old suffering from dementia who lost a significant part of his life’s savings. Johnson’s review and analysis of thousands of documents and over six years of securities trading activity provided necessary evidence that led to an excellent result for the client during the clinic’s first virtual mediation. Johnson also did excellent work on policy and investor protection advocacy by, among other things, leading a presentation to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Investor Advocate about risks faced by small claim investors.

Third-year Huiping (Lily) Liu is a former student intern at the law school’s Health Rights Clinic, a medical-legal partnership with the UM Miller School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital, the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and other community-based organizations, providing legal representation to low income individuals in health-related legal problems, including obtaining Social Security benefits. While at the clinic, Liu represented a 24-year-old woman diagnosed with severe mental and cognitive impairments whose disability benefits were terminated when she turned 18. Liu spent hours combing medical records to develop a sophisticated case theory and legal strategy that resulted in the reinstatement of benefits.

Third-year Samuel A. Sachs has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to economic justice through his service to Miami-Dade’s most vulnerable residents. As a HOPE Summer Public Interest Fellow and then a clerk at the Tenants’ Rights Unit at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Sachs has excelled in his dedication to, contribution, and initiative on behalf of his clients. His engagement has led to the delivery of services to clients during the volatility of the COVID-19 pandemic, as he worked to preserve access to housing and prevent the eviction of clients. During his internship as a Summer Public Interest Fellow, Sachs also participated in filming an informational video and aided in the drafting of several pro se brochures to provide essential information to those facing economic hardship.

Third-year Stacey Shenderov is also a former student intern with the Health Rights Clinic. During her tenure with the clinic, Shenderov did outstanding work on behalf of a 21-year-old client suffering from severe psychological disorders. She collaborated with multiple medical professionals across several medical institutions to gather thousands of pages of records to support her client’s successful disability claim. As a result of her excellent work, the client obtained the resources to begin to care for herself and her young daughter.

“I am delighted that we were able to use the cy pres award to the law school to recognize the terrific work of these students,” said Teresa Verges, director of Miami Law’s Investor Rights Clinic. “Through their dedication, hard work, and commitment to economic justice, the award recipients have made a difference in their clients’ lives or affected change through outreach and policy work. On behalf of the selection committee, I congratulate the recipients.”

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