Sheena Waymon had a serious problem with the man who claimed to be her landlord. (Ms. Waymon’s name changed
for client privacy). Less than a year earlier, the single mom moved into her Euclid rental house with her young children. Money was always tight, but she had a job and paid her rent. However, when she requested a three-day extension to make her monthly payment, she received a three-day eviction notice instead.
To compound her problems, the court date was set during her work hours. She faced a choice between skipping work at the job she needed and losing the chance to defend her home.
With no money for an attorney, she turned to The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, where volunteer Carter Strang, a partner at Tucker Ellis LLP, agreed to represent Ms. Waymon. First, Mr. Strang set to work on the court date’s conflict with
Ms. Waymon’s work schedule.
“I called up the court to get the lay of the land for the hearing,” Mr. Strang explained. He learned that many eviction cases similar to Ms. Waymon’s go uncontested, so the court schedules several back-to-back on the same day. He also learned filing an answer to the complaint would show the case required more consideration, and the hearing would be held before a magistrate judge at a later time.
“We determined our case was more complicated and deserved the attention a magistrate could give it,” Mr. Strang explained. “Having the case referred to a magistrate had the side benefit of avoiding the conflict with her schedule. It was a win-win.”
At the hearing, the man who had been harassing Ms. Waymon for rent revealed he did not actually own the home Ms. Waymon was renting. The owner on the deed was not referenced in the complaint or present at the hearing. When the plaintiff, who was not an attorney, said he was acting as an agent on behalf of the owner, Mr. Strang objected.
Non-lawyers may represent themselves in court, but it is unlawful for them to practice law on behalf of others. The case was dismissed, and Ms. Waymon and her children were able to remain in their home until she found a new place.
Afterwards, Mr. Strang reflected on what he called “a fulfilling and rewarding experience,” in representing his client. “I had such a feeling of satisfaction knowing that the plaintiff couldn’t get away with what he was doing. It certainly made my day.”
Read the full issue of Poetic Justice where this article appears.