Pro Bono News

Closing Housing Justice Gap Needs More Than Lawyers

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Closing Housing Justice Gap Needs More Than Lawyers

"A daunting justice gap facing low-income people threatened with home evictions demands a “wrap around” response by volunteer lawyers backed by social services and other kinds of assistance, pro bono advocates said Tuesday.

Speaking to hundreds of legal aid leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., a group of lawyers and judges described how they've seen some modest successes in helping people dodge a life-changing loss of a home by marshalling support from a range of people within and outside the legal community.

At the same time, panelists participating in the Legal Services Corp.’s Forum on Increasing Access to Justice described a massive disparity between the number of people facing evictions or home foreclosures across the U.S. who have legal help and those without, and the life-altering consequences they face if they don’t know how to respond in court.

Dawn Caldart, who directs the pro bono program at Quarles & Brady LLP, said a successful eviction defense program must look beyond getting volunteer lawyers into housing court and focus on sealing partnerships with other entities ready to offer financial, medical and housing assistance to clients.

“You really need to look at it as a wrap-around effort,” Caldart said. “Maybe you can stop an eviction, but maybe you’re just putting a band-aid on it. Maybe [the pro bono client] needs rent assistance and other things, so having those partners in place is important.”

The forum, held at Georgetown University Law Center, drew about 375 members of the legal aid and pro bono community.

The LSC, the largest funder of legal aid services in the U.S., is amid its annual push for federal funding. Among scores of project leaders and LSC grantees were a handful of state Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and BigLaw pro bono directors.

A number of representatives of the American Bar Association also attended, with current ABA President Robert Carlson of Corette Black Carlson & Mickelson PC in Montana giving the closing remarks..."

Continue reading