Inside the fight to revamp Right to Counsel

The city’s controversial housing law is working for both landlords and tenants, but some issues still need to be straightened out.

News Story (New York)

Eddie Small
The Real Deal
May 13, 2019

Tags: Civil Right to Counsel, Housing: Eviction

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Society (New York City)


“We explain to them that they’re in a Right to Counsel part of the city,” said Matthew Tropp, a Bronx-based lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, explaining the somewhat makeshift process. “If they apply for assistance with us, we can help. They can decline, and sometimes people do.”

Such a haphazard approach to finding potential clients shows that even as the city’s Right to Counsel law enjoys support from individuals on both the landlord and tenant sides of the courtroom aisle, it still needs more institutional support in order to succeed, advocates say.

City Councilman Mark Levine, who spearheaded the legislation, outlined several such concerns in a recent letter to New York’s Office of Court Administration.

“We are deeply concerned that not enough tenants who have the right to counsel know it exists and that those who do are too intimidated to use it,” Levine wrote. “As the five-year roll out continues, and as we move towards expanding the Right to Counsel law, we must be ready for even more tenants [to] take advantage of this program.”