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Students win appeal in ground­breaking right-to-jury-trial case

Monday, May 22, 2017  /  Rate this article:
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(Left to right) Santiago Reich, Professor Andrew S. Pollis and Marvin DeLeon at the Eighth District Court of Appeals
(Left to right) Santiago Reich, Professor Andrew S. Pollis and Marvin DeLeon at the Eighth District Court of Appeals
Not showing up for court will no longer be a means for defendants to avoid jury trials, thanks to the work of two Case Western Reserve University School of Law students in our Civil Litigation Clinic who successfully argued this before the Eighth District Court of Appeals.

Third-year law students Marvin DeLeon and Santiago Reich represented a woman who hired a repairman to do work on her home. She filed a complaint against him in March 2015 for failing to make repairs for the work he was hired to do, damaging her home, stalking her daughter and engaging in misconduct while he was working.

The repairman failed to answer the complaint or appear in court, prompting the woman to seek a default judgment. She requested a jury trial for her damages.

“She has a fundamental right to a jury trial under Article 1, Section 5 of the Ohio Constitution,” DeLeon said.

The trial court granted her default judgment, but denied the request for a jury trial. Instead, the court scheduled a hearing on the damages, a scenario that plays out all too often, the students said.

“Judges have an incentive not to grant a jury trial,” Reich said.

He explained that busy courts have many trials going on and want to get through them. If they can schedule a hearing, they may take that course of action to quickly resolve matters, especially in such cases where defendants fail to appear.

During the hearing in April 2016, the court awarded the woman $70,376. Most of the amount was for treble and actual damages. The Court also awarded her $5,000 for mental anguish.

When it came to punitive damages, though, the court awarded her only $1. Those types of damages are meant to punish defendants and require additional evidence. Because the defendant didn’t show up in court, there was no need for a jury trial, the court ruled.

“The fact our client was only awarded $1 in punitive damages is the reason why this was even able to be appealed,” Reich said.

The appellate court determined that a defendant’s failure to appear in court doesn’t mean a client can’t have a right to a jury trial, if requested. It is a “properly preserved fundamental constitutional right,” the opinion states.

“She definitely wants her day in court to tell her side of the story,” DeLeon said. “Now she is going to get it.”

For the students, the case has been a valuable learning experience, and it was the first time they had participated in oral arguments at the appellate level before. DeLeon said he was very nervous to appear before the appeals court for the first time, but Reich has a different take on DeLeon’s performance:

“He killed it,” Reich said.

Because Reich and DeLeon are graduating this year, the jury trial next year will be argued by another team of students from the law school’s Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center. The students serve under the guidance of Professor Andrew S. Pollis, who oversees civil litigation at the clinic.

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Comments on article "Remembering Saif Alameri"

Saeed Al Ali

12/16/2016 4:53 PM

Saif studied law at United Arab Emirates University, the university that I and most UAE LLM and SJD students studied in. He is older than me and began studying in UAEU before me, I saw him there several times, but because the age and classes are different, I didn’t interact with him there in UAE.

On the first day in Cleveland, I saw him. I remember him saying his name, my name is Saif, S … A … I… F. He was funny, even in a very serious situation. Saif helped me many times and acted as brother to all of us, even though we didn’t know each other before July 11. Saif is very kind. He smiles, and says hello to everyone. I visited him in his apartment, and actually lived there for a couple of days before my apartment was ready. That was the first week of law school. He didn’t know me well but he refused to make me live in hotel and he said, "your brother is here." I noticed also that he has a good relationship with his neighbors. He knows all of them and always says hello to them and asks them if they need any help. He was a special person.

At the end, we lost one of our brothers. We know that we can’t return him back to life again, but we have hope and confidence that our embassy attorneys will make every possible effort to get his right to punish his killer. My last final exam is on Friday and my flight is on the same day. The first thing I will do after I arrive and see my family is to visit my brother's family.


Jihanne (Jane) Flegeau

12/17/2016 2:07 PM

Saif is the first person I met when I arrived at Case Law School. I had been dreaming of this day for the past few months, yet I was stressed and anxious. On my way to the first LLM meeting, I stumbled upon Saif. He was sitting on the bench, the one we all love. The perfect spot when it's sunny. We talked a little, he made me laugh, smile and realize that everything will be all right.

This is how I will remember him. As a bright and kind man.

Saif was about to have a glorious life, filled with joy, friends and love.

I still find it difficult to acknowledge that it really happened. I'm heartbroken and traumatized, as we all are. But I made myself the promise that I will never forget Saif, his kindness and this terrible and unfair end. I will carry him in my heart from now on. I will be thinking of him on our graduation day because he was going to be with us, celebrating our American degrees. I will take his memories with me when I will go back to France. I'll talk about him with my friends and family so no one will ever forget that nothing in life is granted.

All my thoughts are going to his family and close friends. I know how hard it is trying to find a sense to something that just doesn't make any sense...

Please be strong and take care.


Arsalan Alvi

12/19/2016 11:47 AM

I met Saif, along with many other friends from UAE and all over the world, during the orientation week when I was struggling to find an accommodation. Saif was one of those few friends who first reached out to me and tried to help me. Over time, our friendship grew in school and outside as we met everyday and shared many beautiful memorable laughters that I shall remember him by and cherish forever.

I remember the last time we met after a class. We were both on our way home and when he caught me worried about my exams (my natural reaction to exams), he said, "You will get honors, wait and see. You are smart."

Things will not be the same again without his shining smiles and valuable insights in our conversations, but I am certain that he will be looking down on us and smiling on graduation day when all his friends in LLM will make him proud.


Ali Alblooshi

12/20/2016 3:30 AM

I have had the privilege of knowing Saif since May 2015. We have a scholarship from ADNOC. We were supposed to join together in the national service and then work in the same company. But his death was closer than all of that.

I miss his humor, and the beautiful smile, which greeted us every morning and evening.

It's hard merely to think that we will not meet again with our friend, but Saif's memories will live on in our hearts, our prayers, our conversation and in every corner and place we met with him.

Saeed and I met with Saif's family yesterday, and we transfered these condolences to them. They thanked us for our feelings about Saif's death.

At the end, I can only mention as I believe: "We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return."

May Allah have mercy on him.


Hamad Aleissaee

12/20/2016 5:36 PM

Saif and I took most classes together in law school in the UAE, but I never had the chance to talk with him. Last year, we studied English in the same university in PA. We had been communicating a lot every day and hanging out because he was my roommate for one semester. Saif was very very kind and friendly to me and to anybody he met with. So, that is why Saif had a lot of friends in PA. Saif liked to help his friends any time they asked him for help. Saif and I and his friends had amazing moments together even when we moved to Cleveland. He had many friends as he had a wonderful personality.

Actually, sometimes I feel that I'm in a dream. I could not believe his death. It is hard to forget all the memories we had together. Saif will be in my mind as long as I study in Cleveland, especially at CWRU, as I really considered Saif one of my brothers.

May Allah (god) have mercy on him.


Ernesto Biternas

12/21/2016 1:50 AM

I can just say that I loved Saif, and that I hope he is in that better place that he believed to be real... Rest in peace my beloved friend...you left my heart in mourning.


Ernesto Biternas

12/21/2016 2:26 AM

I don't know if this was Saif's favorite song, but he sure listened to it a lot.

https://youtu.be/_dujteZgI54


Elizabeth Hornberger

12/21/2016 11:51 PM

This past summer, I had the privilege of teaching a small group of incoming LLM students. I was lucky enough to have a great group of individuals (Group #1!), and lucky for all of us, Saif was a part of our group. Teaching over the summer was terrific. Every single one of my students brought a different background, perspective, personality, and understanding of American law, and each student was intelligent in his/her own way.

Saif always stuck out in my mind because of a particular class during the second week of the summer semester. Prior to class, I ran into him in the hallway. Due to our lucky encounter, I told on him that I was going to call on him first. He became flustered and explained that he was not wholly prepared and begged on me not to call on him.

When we started class that day we began covering one of our Property Law cases, Pierson v. Post. That case was between two parties-- one who began chasing a fox and one who saw the other chasing the fox and took the opportunity to kill and take away the fox before he did. The entire issue in the case was determining whether the fox was the property of the "chaser" or of the party that killed it.

I did not call on Saif for the beginning of the class as we went over the majority ("winning") opinion. But after reviewing why the majority ruled as it did, I asked the students who they would have decided for. The entire class agreed with the majority- Saif was particularly sold by the majority's reasoning. I remember him breaking down the analysis into "you capture it, you win."

With the lopsided vote in place, we then reviewed the dissenting ("losing") opinion and its reasons. I began trying to play devil's advocate, asking questions from the chaser's side (i.e. "But I put in all the work! Why does someone else get what I worked so hard for?!"). The students sat there quiet for about 30 seconds and I noticed that Saif sat in the back grasping his head while he thought. Then his eyes lit up and he immediately raised his hand. When I called on him, he said, "I agree with the dissent!" When I pushed him on why he changed his mind, he explained some great policy considerations to the class.

While that day does not seem like a great big deal or is not a particularly funny story, it stuck with me because Saif did not come prepared to class that day. Yet, he still caught on quickly and broke down the arguments into his own words. He was brilliant and always exhibited that brilliance with humility and charm.

I only taught the LLM students for four weeks, but my students continue to say "hello" and keep me updated about their lives and schooling. Saif was a particularly bright spot in the law school and my day because he was so personable and always made me laugh. The Arabic luncheon that he and other LLM students hosted a few weeks ago was one of the coolest moments during this past semester for me. The food was terrific, but the best part was how excited all of the hosting students were to show off their cultures and backgrounds. Saif had a huge smile on his face during the luncheon and it was so cool to see all of the LLM students enjoying themselves and teaching me things about their lives back home.

I am so thankful for the short time I had to get to know Saif. I continue to read and hear things about him that make me laugh and smile. All of the stories are so "Saif-like" because they are funny and bring a smile to my face.

I wish Saif's family and friends warm thoughts during this difficult time and want them to know that Saif was a meaningful member of the CWRU law community.


GuzeI Sаkаevа

1/4/2017 10:57 AM

There’s no word that can express how sorry we are to hear about the death of your friend Saif. We were very stunned to hear this news and still can’t believe that it really happened.

Saif was a person who was always ready to help.

I remember these moments when I am coming late, running into a classroom or trying to find a vacant seat. Saif always gave his place to me. When I forgot my books, he always lent me his books.

Last time I saw him studying in the Coffeehouse, he told me: "Good luck on your exams; enjoy this wonderful time!"

I will miss his warmth and humor. My thoughts and prayers are always with him.


Siyuan Yu

2/21/2017 9:26 AM

We are with you. We are here for you.


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