DOJ recognizes Wayne Law for increasing housing stability and access to justice in Detroit

Last week, the White House and the Department of Justice convened 99 law schools who responded to the Attorney General’s Call to Action to the Legal Profession to address the housing and eviction crisis.

Ninety-nine law schools in 35 states and Puerto Rico immediately committed their law schools to help prevent evictions. In just a few months, law students across the country dedicated nearly 81,000 hours to provide legal assistance to households and communities across the country.

To assist this effort, Wayne State University Law School supported Detroit residents by: 

• Partnering with the City of Detroit, Lakeshore Legal Aid, and United Community Housing Coalition to create the “Warrior Eviction Defense Corps” 

• The Corps places law students in a position to provide critical legal services to tenants facing eviction

• Students in the Corps are first trained by Lakeshore Legal Aid and then supervised in their work by experienced attorneys

• In the Corps, students:

- staff eviction dockets;

- conduct client intake;

- draft pleadings;

- negotiate conditional dismissals; and

- engage in neighborhood canvassing and direct outreach through Detroit’s Eviction Prevention Team 

• Wayne Law students will have dedicated 1,900 hours to eviction defense work by the end of the Winter 2022 semester

• Looking ahead, in addition to eviction defense work, the Corps envisions addressing other housing issues, such as the right to counsel in landlord-tenant cases and deplorable housing conditions; the Corps is also considering a court watch project

“What has really stood out in this effort are the individual experiences,” said Wayne Law Assistant Professor (Clinical) and Director of Externships Daniel Ellman. “One student recently reached out to me to explain how much the Corps has meant to him. He said that representing people facing eviction was the reason he wanted to be a lawyer – to stand up for people who needed him most.” 

“Five months ago, I asked the legal community to answer the call to help Americans facing eviction,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.  “Law students and lawyers from across the country stepped up to take on cases, and assisted their clients and communities at a time when our country needed it the most. Today, our work is far from over, and making real the promise of equal justice under law remains our urgent and unfinished mission.”

Law schools drew on resources, such as pro bono and externship programs, clinical offerings, and the service of the larger law school community to help struggling families avoid eviction through rental assistance application support, volunteering with legal aid providers, helping courts implement eviction diversion programs, among other initiatives aimed at increasing housing stability and access to justice.

“The housing crisis is a poverty and economic security issue because of the long-lasting effects that we know evictions have on families,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.  “It’s a racial and gender justice issue because of the disproportionate effect the spike in evictions will have on women and people of color. That’s why I have encouraged courts to adopt eviction diversion as an essential tool for keeping people in their homes and landlords to access rental assistance during the pandemic.”

This call to action by the attorney general and the response from 99 Law Schools is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s all-of-government approach to help millions of families keep up on rent and remain in their homes. These efforts—along with the distribution of $25-30 billion distributed to well over 3 million households in need through in the American Rescue Plan Emergency Rental Assistance program by the end of 2021—has led to increased access to counsel and eviction diversion in jurisdictions across the country and kept eviction filing rates below 60% of averages in a typical year. 

Since the American Rescue Plan was passed, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken a number of actions to speed up emergency rental assistance and establish eviction diversion programs which have dramatically accelerated relief for those in need following the end of the national eviction moratorium and throughout the public health crisis. 

“We could not be more inspired that so many dedicated law students and clinical legal programs have risen to the call to provide legal services to hard-pressed families at risk of, too often, devastating evictions,” said Gene Sperling, senior advisor to the president and American Rescue Plan coordinator.  “We are encouraged that the Emergency Rental Assistance has provided critical relief to well over 3 million renters and has helped not only prevent a tsunami of evictions but kept the rate of eviction filings at 60% of historic averages. We believe that the increased access to counsel that is being provided by such dedicated law students and clinical programs has prevented eviction, despair and even homelessness for countless families, and that these types of access to justice and court diversion reforms are also critical to the long-term reforms needed to build back to a better and more humane national eviction policy.” 


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