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The White House and Department of Justice Convene 99 Law Schools Who Answered Attorney General’s Call to Action for Stronger Access to Justice and Court Reform on Eviction Prevention

Washington, D.C. – Today, the White House and the Department of Justice covened 99 law schools that 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.

“Five months ago, I asked the legal community to answer the call to help Americans facing eviction. Law students and lawyers from across the country stepped up to take on cases and assisted their clients and communities 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.” – Attorney General Merrick Garland

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. 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.” - Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta

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 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.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building a legal system that is just, fair, and accessible to all, but we can’t do it alone. That’s why we salute the law school deans, faculty, and students for answering our call, and for using their legal skills to further the cause of access to justice. Their efforts will provide dignity, housing security, and justice to millions of families across our country.” – Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff

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

“Today, just over one year into the Biden Administration, state and local ERA programs have obligated well over $25 billion in rental assistance and made more than 3 million payments to households. Eviction Lab data shows that in the four full months since the end of the eviction moratorium in August, eviction filings have remained below 60% of historical levels. The data shows that this program is working, keeping hundreds of thousands of families safely housed.” – Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo

“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. 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.” – Gene Sperling, Senior Advisor to the President and American Rescue Plan Coordinator

To assist with these efforts, Pitt Law supported their community by:

  • Assisting Allegheny County’s innovative Housing Court Help Desk by helping pro se tenants navigate the appeals process, ensuring meaningful access to justice. 
  • Representing several indigent tenants in eviction proceedings related to the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium in August. Professor Jerry Dickinson defended tenants at both the magisterial district courts and the arbitration divisions in Allegheny County. He’s successfully helped keep tenants in their homes and negotiated settlement agreements to allow tenants more time to relocate. 

“Pitt Law is proud to be part of this historic effort to help reduce the justice gap and preserve housing for at-risk tenants during this crisis,” said Megan Lovett, Esq., Assistant Director, Public Interest and Pro Bono Initiatives. “Pro Bono work like this provides an invaluable benefit to the Pittsburgh community and critical skills-building to our students.”

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