Jones Day Volunteers Preserve Housing
Robert Peterson*, an SSI recipient, was paying rent to live in a house. One day in August 2007, his landlord evicted him. The locks on the house were changed, and Mr. Peterson’s belongings were set out on the street. The Cleveland man was facing homelessness and came to Legal Aid for assistance. The case was referred to the Private Tenant-Landlord Project, a collaboration between Legal Aid, the Cleveland Mediation Center and the Cleveland Tenants Organization which matches pro bono attorneys with private tenant cases.
Charlie Pugh, an attorney with Jones Day, took Mr. Peterson’s case. The landlord was resistant, and Mr. Pugh fought a long fight. The case was referred to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas’ “nonbinding” arbitration, where a panel of three attorneys issued a one-word decision against the client.
Mr. Pugh then appealed to the trial court. The defendants did not appear at the trial. Mr. Pugh and his Jones Day colleague Dustin Rawlin were required to prove damages, which they did successfully; Mr. Peterson’s housing was preserved and he was awarded $21,000 in compensatory and punitive damages and $10,000 in attorney’s fees in August 2008. Says Mr. Pugh, “It was satisfying to obtain a favorable result for our client. The Tenant-Landlord Project is an excellent way to help serve the needs of the community.”
Legal Aid’s Private Tenant-Landlord Project is a partnership with the Cleveland Tenants Organization and the Cleveland Mediation Center. Jones Day and Hahn Loeser + Parks provide volunteer support. Legal Aid’s Private Tenant-Landlord Project is funded by United Way of Greater Cleveland and the Sisters of Charity Foundation.
* Name changed to protect client’s confidence