Legislators weigh public defender-like system for tenants facing eviction

If implemented, Pollock said providing counsel to tenants facing eviction saves money “downstream.” Keeping tenants housed, he said, will reduce costs for the homeless shelters, police departments and jails that often deal with eviction’s aftermath.

News Story (Massachusetts)

Ben Berke
Enterprise (Brockton, MA)
September 6, 2019

Tags: Housing: Right to Counsel


Pollock’s organization, the National Coalition for a Right to Counsel, has helped pass the nation’s first laws guaranteeing lawyers to low-income tenants facing eviction in New York City, Newark and San Francisco.

Now, the coalition has turned its attention to Massachusetts, where lawmakers have proposed a trio of bills that seek to establish the nation’s first statewide version of the legislation.

Right-to-counsel advocates say there are three viable ways to provide free attorneys in eviction cases. Public defender offices like Massachusetts’ Committee for Public Counsel Services can take on eviction cases in addition to their criminal defense practice. Under another type of system, nonprofit legal aid organizations like the Justice Center could bid for contracts and divvy up the state’s six Housing Court jurisdictions. A third system, which Pollock says pilot programs have shown to be less effective, would reimburse private attorneys who take on eviction cases for low-income tenants.