Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

My Externship Experience - Altus W. Hudson, II

Altus W. Hudson, II - Legal Aid of Compton

I sat at my desk at Legal Aid of Compton, fresh out of my first year of law school, feeling confident about knowing how to recognize a contingent remainder or an offer and acceptance, when my supervisor handed me my first case file and told me to get to know the file because tomorrow I would have to interview the client. I was sure that the "boot camp" for lawyers also called "first year law" had prepared me well to handle the task of saving the world.

I opened the file with all the anticipation of a child at Christmas time, seeking to ascertain just what I could do to help save the world. To my amazement Scrooge had placed a lump of coal in my stocking and reality told me that the world was not ready to be saved. The file stated that an elderly veteran who had owned his home for over 30 years was on the verge of losing it. The old "Vet" got into trouble when professional scam artists convinced him to upgrade his electrical wiring and add security bars to his home. They then inflated the price of the work, charged him for work they never did, multiplied the cost by a very high finance rate and multiplied that by 10 years, which created excessively high monthly payments. They then told him to sign work releases which were really deeds of trust enabling them to sell his home should he miss a payment. Well, the inevitable happened, as they knew it would since the Vet was on a fixed income and could not afford the payments. After reading the file I was completely prepared to attack this problem from several directions and fully anticipating the client interview.

I met the Vet at his home because he was no longer able to get around. I was met by a tattered old guy who mumbled incessantly about whatever came to his mind. Immediately he displayed gestures of trust towards me. I knew then how he was such an easy target for scam artists. He then began to explain to me in a very emotional way that the house was the only thing he owned in the world. As he explained to me his problem, he was on the verge of tears and I thought about how Pennoyer v. Neff, Miranda v. Arizona nor anything else within the pages of a case book could have prepared me for the emotional and human side of the law. But, I was quickly brought back into focus by the sobering thought of this old guy being preyed upon by professional vultures who use the loopholes in our system to steal in a legal manner.

I told him not to worry, and that we would help him with this problem. The thanks and appreciation he expressed reminded me of the reasons I wanted to extern with Legal Aid. If it were not for Legal Aid, he would not have had any place to turn. The law would then be a play toy subject to the random manipulation of the elite. But, because of Legal Aid, the Vet was well on his way to "restoring himself to the position" he was in before this fraudulent contract took place. My externship at Legal Aid of Compton was the fulfillment of a dream, in that I was helping to ensure that people like this Veteran did not feel disenfranchised and locked out of our legal system.

Note: Mr. Hudson, a former Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney, is now with the law firm of Kidd & Hudson.