DEFEND RIGHT TO COUNSEL CAMPAIGN
RTC is under attack! We are fighting back!
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 21,000 tenants have been denied RTC.
To learn more about why this is happening, read our full FAQ on DEFEND RTC.
- 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.
- Pass our Statewide Defend RTC Legislation (S3254 / A4993), which would mandate that tenants have the time they need to get RTC. Learn more about the legislation here.
- Pass our Statewide Right to Counsel Legislation (A.1493/S.2721) for all New York tenants, which would also create rules for the courts to uphold and implement RTC.
- Fully Fund RTC! We are demanding at least $300 million to ensure there are enough attorneys to represent everyone entitled to RTC.
- 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.
- And so much more!
Call your city council members and demand that they:
Ensure that Local Law 53 is funded now. This law supports tenant organizing groups to educate and organize tenants across NYC about their rights OCJ (Office of Civil Justice) has publicly committed to allocated 3.6 million dollars this year but has failed to release the funds.
FULLY FUND Local Law 136, the right to counsel law, so legal services providers can hire and retain more right to counsel attorneys. We are demanding an additional $351 million so all tenants have an attorney.
Sign on to and Pass Resolution 345 in support of Statewide Right to Counsel (A.1493/S.2721) for all New York tenants.
- Call your state legislators and demand that they: Pass Statewide Right to Counsel (A1493 / S2721), which would guarantee ALL New York tenants the right to a lawyer when facing eviction.
- Sign Up to do Court Watch to make sure tenants know their rights!
- Watch this powerful video of one of our actions disrupting Housing Courts in Brooklyn and the Bronx! We shall not be moved!
To learn more or to get involved in our campaign to defend RTC, email us!
Resources for Tenants:
- Defend RTC Flyer (English/Spanish)
- Defend RTC Court Outreach Postcard (English; Spanish)
- How to Organize a Court Solidarity Action
- Tenant Self Defense Resource Guide (English)
- Guia de Recursos de Autodefensa del Inquilino (Espanol)
- Sample Adjournment Letter to Demand RTC (English; Spanish)
- FAQ on DEFEND RTC
Read More About Our Position:
- Read our Full FAQ on Defend RTC
- Watch our briefing to City Council on How the Can Support the Fight to Defend RTC. See our slide deck from the briefing here. (July, 2023)
- Our legal memo outlining the legal basis for our Defend RTC Demands (May 2023)
- Testimony to the Committee on General Welfare (March 2023)
- Letter from Deputy Speaker Ayala + CM Abreu to Mayor Adams(February 2023) asking the Mayor to do more to Defend RTC and support our demands.
- Testimony at the annual hearing of OCJ on RTC (February 2023)
- Legal Services Union Letter to OCA on RTC (January 2023)
- 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 adjournments. (December 2021)
Press (Selected List Below)
- "Cases Against Tenant Should be Adjourned Until they Have Lawyers," NY Daily News, June 2023
- "Tenants Take Over Bronx and Brooklyn Housing Courts, Protesting Lack of Lawyers," The City, May 2023
- "At Overdue Hearing, Advocates Push NYC to Fulfill Promise of Housing Court Help for Low-Income Tenants," City Limits, March 2023
- "NYC Led the Way on Right to Counsel for People Facing Eviction. Now its Program is Struggling," Next City, December 2022
- "'Save These Families!': Protestors Disrupt Event With Acting Chief Judge Cannataro, Call For Freeze on Eviction Proceedings for Tenants Lacking Counsel" The New York Law Journal, November 2022
- "Thousands of Tenants Facing Eviction Denied Counsel," Riverdale Press, October 2022
- "Where are the Free Housing Attorneys NYC Promised to Tenants Facing Eviction?" Hellgate, October 2022
- "NYC Borough Presidents Demand Freeze on Eviction Cases," NY Daily News, October 2022
- "New York City officials and tenants rally to slow eviction court," AMNY, August 2022
- "Tenant coalition, Manhattan BP Levine seek housing court slowdown on eviction proceedings," AMNY, August 2022
- "NYC tenant advocates fight to slow pace of eviction cases to guarantee legal defense," Pix11, August 2022
- "Evictions will grow,” Manhattan Times, August 2022.
- "NYC borough presidents demand ‘Right to Counsel’ safeguards for tenants in Housing Court," NY Daily News, May 2022
- "No lawyers left to represent low-income Manhattan and Brooklyn tenants facing eviction," NY Daily News, April 2022
- "Choose people and housing over crackdowns," NY Daily News, April 2022
- "N.Y. lawmakers urge chief judge to avert ‘eviction and homelessness crisis’ in Housing Court," NY Daily News, April 2022
- "Tenants Threatened with Eviction Face Housing Court Without Lawyers," Gothamist, March 2022
- "NYC Housing Court Rejects Inundated Attorneys Slowdown Ask," Law 360, March 2022
- "Housing Courts Must Change: Every Tenant Must Have Right to Counsel as Eviction Moratorium Lifts," Gotham Gazette, January 2022