Left to right: CCLS Managing Director Alvita Eason Barrow, Professors Stacy Brustin, Mike McGonnigal and Suzette Malveaux, law school Dean Veryl Miles; Lead counsel for the plaintiffs Paul Gleiberman, principal of the firm Gleiberman & Associates P.C.; Seth Goldberg and John Beins, partners, Beins, Goldberg & Hennessey, LLP; and Joe Hennessey, CUA Law Class of 1995.
Columbus Community Legal Services
Receives Largest Single Donation in its History
By any measure, it’s one heck of a birthday present. The Columbus School of Law’s legal clinic, which is celebrating 40 years of existence in 2010, received a gift of more than $222,000 on May 7th, the most magnanimous donation in its history.
The clinic is one of 13 charitable legal programs, most of them in Maryland, to benefit from more than $2 million in unclaimed money left over from a successful large class-action lawsuit that was brought against Cellular One (now a division of AT&T) in 1999. The suit claimed the wireless carrier overcharged late fees to customers in violation of Maryland law. The lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, John Beins, Seth Goldberg and Paul Gleiberman, litigated the case for 11 years and ultimately won a trial verdict in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, resulting in a $7.6 million judgment in favor of the plaintiffs’ class.
Because the lawsuit dragged on so long, not everyone who was entitled to a stake in the settlement claimed one. In the end, $2.4 million was left over, and the attorneys asked the court to award the unclaimed money to charitable causes that reflected the original aim of the lawsuit—consumer protection.
The presiding judge in the case, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Durke Thompson, at first said “no law schools, and especially none in D.C.” were to be among the beneficiaries of the class action settlement funds. But he was eventually persuaded otherwise and in the end, Catholic University’s legal clinic enjoyed the third-largest grant on the list of 13.
“Law school clinical programs are where we shape the minds of young lawyers,” said Glieberman, noting that the excellent reputation of CCLS convinced him and his colleagues to try to steer some of the money toward it. He added, “The unclaimed money will go to nonprofits with successful track records of helping consumers—and at a critical moment when other sources of funding are down and demand for legal services is up.”
Columbus Community Legal Services plans to use the money to expand its clinical teaching programs in the neighborhoods and communities surrounding the law school.
Others receiving funds include: Maryland Legal Aid, the Public Justice Center, the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, and Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County.