Talk Justice, an LSC Podcast, Episode 13: Right-to-Counsel Mandates and the Eviction Crisis

April 1, 2021

WASHINGTON – The latest episode of the Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) “Talk Justice” podcast released today explores how right-to-counsel mandates in housing courts might help blunt the eviction crisis. LSC Emerging Leaders Council member Jason Tashea sat down with John Pollock, staff attorney for the Public Justice Center and the coordinator of the National Coalition for the Civil Right to Counsel; Hazel Remesch, supervising attorney at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland; and Kathryn Sabbeth, associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina.

Around the country, an estimated 90 percent of landlords have legal representation compared to only 10 percent of tenants in eviction lawsuits. The majority of these unrepresented tenants lose their cases and are ultimately evicted. Federal law does not guarantee a right to counsel in civil cases, but some states and localities have adopted a right to counsel at the state and local level across different legal areas, including housing.  The panelists considered these existing programs and what the future holds for right-to-counsel initiatives. 

Remesch shared findings from Cleveland’s recently adopted right-to-counsel program, which provides legal representation for tenants facing eviction. “Our outcomes show that 93 percent of the clients that we represented were able to avoid eviction or involuntary displacement,” she said.

The panelists discussed the value of these programs in preventing unlawful evictions, particularly now as the country faces the severest housing crisis in its history due to COVID-19.

“It takes some resources to provide a right to counsel; it takes substantial resources not to provide a right to counsel,” Pollock said. He explained that states and cities that don’t provide legal representation to tenants instead end up paying for the consequences of eviction. These include the cost of supporting homeless shelters, emergency medical care and foster car

The panelists explained that states and localities that are working to extend right to counsel are looking to enlist different partners, including civil legal aid providers. 

Talk Justice episodes are available on LSC’s website and on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple and other popular podcast apps. The podcast is sponsored by LSC’s Leaders Council. 

Future episodes of Talk Justice will explore how non-lawyer navigators are helping self-represented litigants engage with the judicial system and how partnerships between legal aid organizations and emergency management groups can better meet the civil legal needs of disaster survivors.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.