DEFEND RTC

DEFEND RIGHT TO COUNSEL CAMPAIGN

RTC is under attack! We are fighting back! 

What's Happening: 

By all metrics, RTC works: evictions plummeted, landlords sued tenants less and almost EVERYONE who had Right to Counsel stayed in their home.  Now, all of that is at risk.

We’ve been calling on the courts to slow down cases since COVID began (initially our demand was to stop all cases!) when we launched the Housing Courts Must Change Campaign. There is NO REASON that evictions move faster than any other type of civil court case.  There is no reason to return to pre-pandemic norms of calendaring a ton of cases in every part, every day, and prioritizing speed over justice. This is true IN GENERAL. Our position has always been that if and when housing courts re-opened, they need to move slower than they did in pre-pandemic times, making sure all tenants have RTC, all of the complicated COVID related protections are upheld, and that evictions are not normalized. COVID taught the world that we do not need to return to pre-pandemic beliefs that evictions are normal and cases must move fast at all costs. 

In anticipation of the eviction protections expiring and in the midst of the national labor shortage affecting industries across the country, including legal services providers, we started to push the courts to adopt the policy of slowing down cases back in January of 2022. Some legal services orgs have dozens open positions they are trying to fill. This means that remaining attorneys would need to do the impossible task of taking on their former colleagues' cases, moving forward with cases that had previously been stalled and taking on new cases.  We knew this would create a crisis and tried to get ahead of it by pushing the courts to change their practices. In response to our solutions, the court said no and instead began moving cases forward without RTC.  It's only gotten worse.

Our eviction crisis monitor documents this crisis.  To date, more than 16,000 tenants have been denied RTC. 

 

OUR SOLUTIONS: 

  • Issue an administrative order to mandate that all eviction cases where a tenant is eligible for RTC shall be administratively stayed until the tenant has retained a right to counsel attorney.
  • Don’t calendar new eviction cases until the backlog of eviction cases is addressed. 
  • Reduce the volume of eviction cases on court calendars so that the number of new cases each day matches legal service provider capacity to provide full representation to all eligible tenants. 
  • Provide sufficient time between court dates to allow time for lawyers to complete essential work on each case, keeping in mind the current staffing shortages and work overload.

OUR ACTIONS: 

  • We've met with local elected officials, the courts and various city agencies. 
  • We've held multiple protests in front of the housing courts and state agencies 
  • We've taken elected officials on tours of the housing courts to see for themselves how tenants are being denied RTC 
  • We've held workshops, town halls and trainings in the neighborhoods hit hardest by evictions to explain what's happening and help tenants fight back. 
  • We've held solidarity actions to accompany tenants who've been denied RTC to court 
  • We are doing regular outreach at courts. 
  • See our TAKE ACTION Page for upcoming actions. 

To learn more or to get involved in our campaign to defend RTC, email us! 

Read More About Our Position: 

  • Letter to Judge Cannataro (October 2022) to ask him to use his power to pause eviction cases without RTC. 
  • Statement (April 2022) in response to the Office of Court Administration's response to undermine Right to Counsel
  • Letter to Judge DiFiore (February 2022) about the current capacity issues at legal services orgs and our solution to maintain the integrity of RTC during this time 
  • Testimony to the Committee of General Welfare (February 2022)
  • Op-ed on the need for courts to slow down and the impending crisis(January 2022)
  • Our legal memo outlining the legal basis for our solutions.  (December 2021) 

Resources for Tenants: 

Press (Selected List Below)