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A Korean immigrant hotel maintenance worker who was forced to work 90 hours a week without overtime pay was awarded more than $351,000 plus interest and legal fees by Southern District Judge Gerard E. Lynch in New York last month, thanks in large part to some Fordham University School of Law students. Fordham’s Civil Rights Clinic of Lincoln Square Legal Services, along with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), spent the past three years representing Keun-Jae Moon in his case against Manhattan’s Hotel Stanford, where Moon was often forced to sleep in the boiler room so he could respond to emergencies. Several law students at the clinic helped draft briefs, took depositions, participated in court conferences and even questioned witnesses. “This is the first wage and hour case that has gone to trial,” said Fordham Law Professor Elizabeth Cooper, who ran the civil rights clinic and supervised the students. “The vast majority of these cases settle. This is the largest amount that any of our clients has recovered.” About five years ago, the Fordham clinic entered into a working cooperative with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which began to refer cases. At first, the students drafted complaints and formulated strategies for the referred matters. As they did in Moon’s case, the students took the lead in all aspects of the litigation. “The students conducted all the discovery, they did depositions and we had some conferences with the court,” said AALDEF Legal Director Kenneth Kimmerling. “We went to trial this year, and while I handled one witness and [Cooper] handled one, the students did all the others.” According to Cooper, plaintiffs represented by the students benefit from the enthusiasm that budding attorneys bring to their cases. “We’re very lucky because many of the students look at the clinic as a wonderful opportunity to learn and a great opportunity to represent clients who would not otherwise get representation,” Cooper said.

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