Public Justice Advocacy Clinic

Professor of Clinical Law and Faculty Supervisor: Jeffrey S. Gutman

Professorial Lecturer in Law: Paula Scott

The Public Justice Advocacy Clinic focuses primarily on employment law and disability law. Under faculty supervision, students represent low-income clients in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, D.C. Superior Court, D.C. Court of Appeals, and in administrative courts in cases involving wage and hour, unemployment compensation, disability, and other issues.  We consider representing clients in other kinds of civil cases which are appropriate for students and are likely to advance the public justice mission of the Clinic.  Students’ case responsibilities include client interviewing, factual development, legal analysis, drafting of pleadings, discovery, motions, briefs, oral advocacy, and settlement negotiations. Students may also work with nonprofit and community organizations on public policy issues.  The classroom component focuses on law and poverty, and on developing a variety of lawyering skills, including client interviewing, case analysis, oral advocacy, litigation document drafting, and negotiations.

Additional Information

Information for Students

Students are selected based on their potential to provide high quality, client-centered legal services to our client population. Faculty will consider a student’s interest in, and commitment to, public interest and legal services work, but such interest is not required. Faculty aim to select a class with different backgrounds, experiences, and interests, but a common desire to serve clients and gain invaluable experience. 

Each semester, the Clinics hold an Open House where faculty are available to answer questions about their respective clinics. Students may also contact Professor Gutman to discuss the Clinic or ask specific questions.

Eligibility

  • Students in the second semester of their 2L years and 3L students are eligible to apply. Preference is given to 3L students.
  • Certification by the DC Court of Appeals to practice as a student is required and will be facilitated once a student is accepted into the clinic.
  • Completion or concurrent enrollment in Professional Responsibility, Evidence, and Trial Advocacy can be helpful, but is not required.
  • Participation in a field placement with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program prior to applying to the Public Justice Advocacy Clinic will be looked at favorably in reviewing applications for acceptance in the Clinic

For more information, please login to the Portal. Complete application instructions are available on the Portal approximately one month prior to the registration period.

Information for Prospective Clients

In general, the Clinic represents clients in wage and hour and unemployment cases. We do not typically represent clients in employment discrimination cases. Most of our cases are through referrals from community partners or the Office of Administrative Hearings. However, the faculty remain open to accept other kinds of civil cases that will work well with our teaching, student practice, and Clinic mission. 

There is no charge for services, although we may ask clients to contribute to certain litigation costs if they are able to do so. We reserve the right to seek attorney’s fees from opposing parties when appropriate. 

If you are interested in talking with us about a case, please call 202.994.7463. If no one answers, please leave a message and we will return your call.

Clinic Accomplishments

The following are examples of recent cases in which Public Justice Advocacy Clinic students and faculty have successfully represented clients:

Unemployment Compensation Cases

  • Obtained unemployment benefits for a security guard who had originally been denied benefits due to alleged theft.

  • Persuaded an administrative law judge, in two separate cases, to reverse the denial of benefits to food service workers wrongly accused of assaulting co-workers.

  • Persuaded an administrative law judge to reverse the denial of benefits to a building engineer accused of violating company rules on moonlighting.

  • Obtained unemployment benefits for a client by successfully arguing that, under the circumstances, the client, a security guard who fell asleep on the job, had not engaged in gross misconduct.

  • Persuaded an administrative law judge to award benefits to a security guard who resigned her job as a result of an illness caused by her employment.

  • Obtained unemployment benefits for a woman who had been terminated shortly after complaining of sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Obtained unemployment benefits for a man fired after leaving his job to care for a severely ill relative.

  • Persuaded an administrative law judge to reverse the denial of benefits to a man who left his shift early from a location far from home during a weather emergency.

  • Obtained benefits for a woman terminated from national retail chain for leaving her shift, with permission, to care for her children.

Federal Cases

  • Appointed by the court to represent a disabled man who alleged that a local retail establishment discriminated against him due to his cognitive impairment.

  • Filed and favorably settled several cases against employers that had failed to pay minimum wages and overtime in accordance with D.C. and federal law.

  • Filed and won a Freedom of Information Act case seeking data relating to the Medicare Advantage Program on behalf of a George Washington University professor. Biles v. CMS, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39269, 2013 WL 1154207 (D.D.C. Mar. 21, 2013).

  • Filed and settled on favorable terms a federal Freedom of Information Act case seeking records relating to the District of Columbia's implementation of a federal settlement governing accessibility to homeless shelters. Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless v. U.S. Department of Justice, No.11-2023 (D.D.C.).

  • Successfully litigated a Freedom of Information Act case on behalf of the National Security Archive against the SEC seeking documents relati​​ng to the relationship between Chiquita Brands International and armed militia organizations in Colombia. Chiquita Brands v. SEC, 10 F.Supp.3d 1 (D.D.C. 2013), aff’d, 805 F.3d 289 (D.C. Cir. 2015).

  • Settled on favorable terms federal claims made by families who alleged they were discriminated against on grounds of their disabilities in homeless shelters. One settlement included substantial reforms to relevant programs.

District of Columbia Court of Appeals Cases

  • Successfully appealed a denial of unemployment to the D.C. Court of Appeals for a client who was late to or absent from work on a number of occasions due to health emergencies and car trouble. Students represented the client at the initial hearing before an Administra​tive Law Judge and briefed the case before the D.C. Court of Appeals. The court reversed the ALJ and ordered that benefits be paid. Hamilton v. Hojeij Branded Food, Inc. 41 A.3d 464 (D.C. 2012).

  • Prevailed in a case before the D.C. Court of Appeals seeking attorney's fees for law student time in a disability compensation case. Copeland v. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services, 3 A.3d 331 (D.C. 2010).

Superior Court Cases

  • Represented a woman in enforcing a judicial order requiring the D.C. Bureau of Vital Statistics to issue her a birth certificate so that she could obtain D.C. identification documents.

  • Helped a family of an individual held captive in a foreign country secure a conservatorship.

  • Won a D.C. Superior Court judgment for over $12,000 for a cleaning company employee who was not properly paid for her work. After the debtor refused to pay the judgment, students worked for over a year to locate assets that could be seized and successfully garnished the entire amount owed.

  • Filed and favorably settled several suits for a Spanish speaking construction workers for wages not paid by a large local developers.

  • Filed and obtained $8,000 judgment in case in D.C. Superior Court on behalf of a man who was paid significantly less than the amount agreed to for his construction work on defendant's homes.

  • Filed and settled on favorable terms several cases on behalf of restaurant workers denied overtime and/or minimum wages.

  • Filed a lawsuit on behalf of four cleaning workers who had not been paid for work, had not been paid minimum wage and were not paid overtime. Students represented the clients at trial and each were awarded a judgment of $5,000, the jurisdictional maximum.