PUBLISHED:March 25, 2019

Civil Justice Clinic students prevail in two cases

The Civil Justice Clinic recently secured favorable outcomes for two clients before the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).

In one case, the clinic’s client, a certified nursing assistant, was charged with physically abusing a patient in a nursing home by intentionally throwing water on the patient. If the charge stood, the client would be permanently banned from working in health care in the United States. Third-year students Zack Ezor and Katie Wong first overcame a motion to dismiss that claimed their client had not filed his grievance petition in a timely fashion. The judge ruled in his favor on the basis of inadequate service of notice of the punitive action taken against him, which tolled the statute of limitations for filing a petition.

In December, Wong and Ezor tried the case against a lawyer from the N.C. Department of Justice (DOJ), handling all of the direct and cross examinations of witnesses, opening and closing statements to the court, and preparation of a proposed Final Decision, including findings of fact and conclusions of law. The judge ruled in their favor on all issues and adopted the proposed final decision.

In another OAH case, second-year students Natalie Sanchez and Katy Garcia prevailed by a different route. During a pretrial conference with the opposing DOJ attorney,  they became aware that the state was planning to change the focus of its case from one event on one date to another event on an earlier date, deviating from the notification letter that their client had received regarding the neglect charge against her The students also recognized that the state was planning to try to introduce key investigative documents via a witness who did not personally conduct the investigation or prepare the documents.

Recognizing these deficiencies, the clinic notified the state’s attorney that it would be seeking dismissal of all charges against its client for violations of basic due process and insufficiency of admissible evidence. In response, the state withdrew all charges.

The clients in both cases are now free to work in their chosen professions again.