Puget Sound-area law firms and legal service providers convened on October 23rd to learn about opportunities to serve the local community through pro bono work, at a fair hosted by the Seattle office of DWT. Nearly two dozen organizations were on hand to talk with lawyers about ways they can assist.
Among the attendees was first-year DWT associate Jamie Corning. He had already had experience working with the King County Housing Justice Project while a DWT summer associate. The Project is stationed at the courthouse, and provides same-day representation to needy clients who have a hearing scheduled before a housing commissioner. At the fair, Corning connected with another King County Bar Association program, called Volunteer Legal Services, which works with tenants whose evictions have been set for trial before a Superior Court judge.
“They told me there was an eviction case set for trial the following week, and asked if I would handle it,” says Corning. He accepted the challenge.
Corning was able to get a three-week continuance, which allowed him to interview witnesses and assess strategy. The landlord then sought more time, which gave Corning the opportunity to further investigate habitability issues with the rental unit, subpoena third-party witnesses, and gather some significant evidence. Eventually, Corning was able to reach a favorable settlement for his client, under which the landlord agreed to a dismissal of the unlawful detainer suit, with prejudice, and waived all current and future claims (including the allegations of significant back-due rent and unpaid utilities). The client was able to use money deposited into a court registry to find a new place to live.
“It’s nice to be in a position to help people who are powerless get some justice,” says Corning, of his interest in housing issues. “I try to focus on litigation because it’s a fantastic way to build skills and experience, so there’s also a real benefit to the firm, and to me.”