Granting a motion in arrest of judgment in the East Cambridge District Court Saturday, Judge A. P. Stone, who a week ago attacked the methods of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau in refusing to set aside a default occasioned by its mistake, accorded to the client of that Bureau his right to "a day in court" and a hearing on the merits of his case. The Motion was argued by a member of the Bureau.
The case before the court was that of Mrs. Alberta O'Brien, of Cambridge, against Hyman Corman as next friend of Murray Corman 1L. The claim arises out of a contract alleged to have been made by Murray, a minor, with the plaintiff for lease of store premises. At the hearing a week ago, defendant, by his counsel the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, moved to reopen a default judgment which had gone for plaintiff when the representative of the Bureau failed to file an answer for his client by reason of misinformation as to the rules of District Courts. Plaintiff's counsel maintained that defendant was relying on the technical defence of his infancy, and that substantial justice could be done by denying a motion whose only effect would be to enable defendant to argue a defence which was not morally supportable. Judge Stone supported the contention of plaintiff's counsel.
Claim Against Son
At Saturday's argument it was pointed out by the Legal Aid Bureau that plaintiff was suing the wrong party inasmuch as the claim lay against Murray Corman, the son, and not against his father. It was further pointed out that the son had throughout been willing to waive his defence of infancy, and to post a bond or other evidence of his financial responsibility, but that this had apparently not been considered by the court at the prior hearing. Counsel for the plaintiff insisted that Corman had had his day in court, but Judge Stone denied this contention on the ground that there had been no opportunity for Corman to state his case. He allowed the motion of defendant's counsel.
Bureau Head Satisfied
The President of the Bureau expressed satisfaction at the result of the ruling. "While there is no justification for the mistake made by one of our members," he said, "it is one that might easily have been made by any experienced attorney coming for the first time into a new community with whose courts he was unfamiliar. Even if it were not, the fact should be considered that the members of the Bureau do not hold themselves out as experienced attorneys. We are all students at the Harvard School of Law, and voluntarily devote a large part of our time there, without compensation, to give legal assistance to people who might otherwise be without it because of their inability to afford paid counsel. That we are not wholly without value in the community may appear from statistics covering the 15 years of our existence, which show that upwards of 2400 cases have been successfully handled, and over $20,000 collected for our clients.
"It is particularly unfortunate that because of the unnecessary and extrajudicial remarks of one judge, the public should conceive the idea that we are a hopeless crew of incompetents, when little or no publicity is given to the work that we are honestly and sincerely trying to perform."