Thomas P. Holderness of Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, P.A. has shown great dedication to Legal Aid of North Carolina's Landlord/Tenant program, a partner program of the MCB Volunteer Lawyer Program (MCB VLP). Holderness has most recently volunteered 67 hours getting old judgments removed from the credit report of a formerly homeless family. This family had been temporarily housed in the Hall House project. Thanks to Holderness' efforts, the family of six will be able re-enter the housing market.
MCB VLP: Current Employer / number of years with current employer?
TH: Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, P.A. / 11 years
MCB VLP: Area of Practice / Expertise?
MCB VLP: Law School / Law School Graduation Year?
TH: University of North Carolina School of Law / 1990
MCB VLP: How did you with Legal Aid of North Carolina pro bono work?
TH: Ted Fillette, Assistant Director of Legal Aid of North Carolina, came to Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson (RBH) and gave a presentation one summer. The more you learn about low income housing, the more you realize that tenants in low income housing need representation. It's too easy for landlords to take advantage of them (though fortunately not all landlords do).
MCB VLP: What is a typical case like?
TH: Often the tenant has already been evicted, and you are just trying to get the tenant some money to compensate for a bad situation. Other times, you are trying to keep the tenant in her home. (Those cases are more satisfying to win and more depressing to lose.) Most of the time, the landlord and the tenant want to resolve the situation without going to court.
MCB VLP: How many of these type of cases do you typically handle at one time?
TH: Usually just one. Jen Hutchens and I coordinated a lot of RBH attorneys working with Hall House residents earlier this year.
MCB VLP: Did you participate in any particular training so that you could handle these cases / issues?
TH: I did attend presentations by Ted Fillette, but anyone can get up to speed on the issues relatively quickly.
MCB VLP: Are there any benchmark cases applicable?
TH: There are cases regarding the implied warranty of habitability and Chapter 75's application in the landlord / tenant arena. People also need to read the Charlotte Housing Code. But most of these cases are factual disputes.
MCB VLP: What is the best advice you've received during your legal career?
TH: Admit your mistakes quickly and, if necessary, ask for help to fix the situation. Trying to hide mistakes never works in the long run and often results in a much more serious problem.
MCB VLP: What advice would you give others?
TH: Keep your work and family life balanced. Do a few things very well instead of getting overcommitted. In some way, use your profession to benefit the downtrodden.
MCB VLP: What is the most challenging part of your career?
TH: Balancing the desire to be involved in a lot of things with the desire to do things very well. Balancing all of that with my desire to be a good husband, father and citizen.
MCB VLP: Any other pertinent things you would like to share with the Mecklenburg County Bar and legal community?
TH: Commit to hands-on service to the poor. Writing a check is good, but it's not enough (for you or for them). Call me if you want to cook or deliver breakfast burritos.
If you are interested in getting involved with a similar project through the MCB VLP partner Legal Aid of North Carolina, please contact Rabia Javaid at 704/971-2584. If you would like further information regarding this or other opportunities to do pro bono work in the Mecklenburg County community, or receive training in Landlord / Tenant case law, please contact Heather Blackley, Coordinator of the MCB VLP at 704/375-8624, ext. 115.