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February 1, 2005

Claire Duggan: (202) 994-0616;
Matt Nehmer: (202) 994-6467;


Law School Clinics Program Receives $2.4 Million Donation from
Cable Company Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Consumers

WASHINGTON - The Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics at The George Washington University Law School is receiving a $2.4 million gift, its largest ever, as the result of a successful class action lawsuit against a Washington, D.C., cable company for charging illegal late fees.

The lawsuit, Bassin and Weems v. District Cablevision Limited Partnership, was originally filed nearly a decade ago by attorney Philip Friedman of Friedman Law Offices, P.L.L.C. After providing each affected cable customer with an opportunity to recover the overcharges, Friedman asked the court to distribute the remaining $13 million of unclaimed funds among four local clinic groups, one of which is the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics. 

Friedman said his decision to ask the courts for a "cy pres" award - a judgment that would allow for the money to be donated to the legal clinics - was because the money should go to institutions that protect consumers in the District of Columbia by providing legal counsel to those unable to afford such services. "This was a community that was grossly underserved in terms of having access to courts and legal services," said Friedman. "These institutions in particular would help protect those rights."

 "Our clinical program is tremendously grateful to Phil Friedman for naming us as one of the cy pres beneficiaries," said GW Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Carol Izumi. "The award acknowledges the 30-plus years of legal services we have offered to D.C. residents and will allow us to have an even greater impact on the community in the future."

Friedman said, "You always hear that all the money goes to the lawyers and the consumers get nothing. This is a real example of how class actions really do work. It not only stopped a predatory practice, but it took the money and used it for the longer term benefit of preventing further predatory practices."

Friedman also has filed similar cases in Maryland, Indiana, Illinois, and Texas. The cases in Maryland ended up returning more than $33 million to consumers.

Accredited by the American Bar Association and a charter member of the Association of American Law Schools, the GW Law School enrolls approximately 1,750 students each year.

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