Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Continues to Bug Me

with 5 comments

Total Black: $1,143.86
Total Red: $230,820.71

The counterclaims I brought against the landlord for bedbugs in my apartment are not going away anytime soon, especially not after the way the landlord’s attorney treated me today in court.  When we were called before the judge’s court attorney this morning to discuss the case, this attorney refused to shake my hand.  Refused.  As if I had done him some personal affront.  After I lowered my untouched hand, he said he didn’t shake on bedbugs.  I don’t know whether he meant that he didn’t shake the hand of someone whose apartment had bedbugs or that he wouldn’t shake the hand of someone who brought suit because of them.  I suspect the latter because he proceeded to berate and belittle me, well to attempt to—I really didn’t care and don’t buckle under such tactics.  He insinuated that I only brought my counterclaims because I owed rent money and had been having financial difficulties.  Before we wrapped up the appearance, he had us wait while he stepped out to check something.  He returned to say that I hadn’t paid December’s rent yet.  It was due today.  I informed him that I had the check with me and was going to the management company once we finished.  He replied, “Good.  That way I don’t have to sue you for December’s rent too.”  I don’t understand what logical leap he expects with this line of “attack” because unlike many other tenants in housing cases, instead of withholding rent money, I paid mine in full.  During our appearance before the judge’s clerk he also asserted that no one in my building ever complained about bedbugs, that I’m the first person to mention it.  He also said that I’ve not allowed the landlord access to my apartment either.  All blatant misrepresentations.  Exterminators have been to my apartment a few times, most recently at the beginning of November when they sprayed for bedbugs.  And my complaints started in November 2008 when I informed the prior management company—the landlord switched management companies midway through this year.  So, clearly the landlord had at least one complaint, mine—that’s why we were in court—and therefore, logically speaking his assertion was flawed.  If you find just one instance of something then “never” is no longer correct.

After a few minutes of this silly banter, the court attorney asked me what I was looking for.  I said that at minimum I wanted the entire building to be treated, not just spot treatments in certain apartments.  Just then the landlord’s attorney agreed with me, and made a big deal of pointing out that that was a point where he agreed with me because bedbugs need to be treated systemically.  He also said that what he could do for me was to let me out of the lease.  “What?!,” I thought.  “And take the bedbugs with me to my new apartment!  That’s no offer.”  And with what money would I move?  And who would take me especially now that I’ve got an active lawsuit against one landlord, and for bedbugs nonetheless?  I suspect I’m already a persona non grata with many landlords.  They search public records and run credit reports after all.

At any rate, the landlord’s attorney said he’d be moving to strike my demand for a jury trial, claiming that I waived it in my lease.  There is a provision in the lease that says we agree to waive jury trials on matters related to the apartment and the lease, so as to my breach of the warranty of habitability claim I may not be entitled to a jury trial after all.  I’ll push back as it’s just a standard lease and so I’m not even sure how well that would hold up.  But as an attorney, I’d have a more difficult time claiming I didn’t read the “fine print,” I suppose.  As to my negligence claim and my intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, I don’t see how the jury trial provision would apply.  I’ll need to research that before responding to his motion.  I’ll also have to move for discovery because I want to know how many people have complained in the past few years.

Frankly, some attorneys really embarrass me and shame the profession.  The landlord’s attorney is one such person.  That he does housing law and represents landlords in New York only exacerbates my disdain for him because he plays right into the stereotype of the slimy landlord attorney.  I don’t understand how any attorney, as officers of the court, can check their humanity and compassion at their office doors.  But I suppose that’s too much to ask for from big, bad New York lawyers.  Just makes me proud of the legal training I received.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

December 1, 2009 at 23:01

5 Responses

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  1. I read your old post in which you said you could not get Hudson to get back to you. If you are not black or stupid they won’t. I’ve seen the people they like to hire – and you sound far too intelligent to be hired by them. Just sayin’.

    ladybug

    December 2, 2009 at 16:42

  2. Hi LoL- I just spotted this and thought you might find this interesting: http://dcist.com/2009/12/dc_grads_have_the_most_college_debt.php

    Kathleen

    December 2, 2009 at 23:47

  3. p.s. This story is, for no apparent related reason, accompanied by one of the oddest spontaneous exchanges by two very nerdy straight guys ever. 🙂

    Kathleen

    December 2, 2009 at 23:51

  4. Don’t worry about the LL’s lawyer – they are assholes. A few years ago I faced eviction and went to housing court [scary for me] and the LL’s lawyers was a total bitch. I asked if I could use her calculator and snapped go get your own. She also made the court attorney cry – who was trying to help me understand the case – by lashing out at her and telling her to shut up. They are not the most refined people in the world.

    ladybug

    December 4, 2009 at 14:29

  5. It’s funny, but I never made the connection between DC and debt. There aren’t any “state” schools in the District besides the University of the District of Columbia. Most people don’t even know that one exists. This story is also funny because I chose DC, and Howard, in part because it meant I’d have much less debt than my peers. Not so much, eh?

    Laid-off Lawyer

    December 6, 2009 at 16:12


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