The State Budget Must Go Further to Pass Right to Counsel
Earlier this week, the NY State Assembly released a budget that represents a step in the direction of establishing a Right to Counsel for all tenants when facing an eviction and fighting to live with the dignity they deserve. Importantly, it establishes the Office of Civil Representation, potentially setting up the needed infrastructure to implement Right to Counsel and community organizing across New York State. It also potentially sets up the infrastructure to mandate that the courts uphold and defend RTC. For the thousands of tenants being denied Right to Counsel, this could be critical.
Unfortunately the language in the bill limits what RTC can and must be, creating access to legal services for some instead of a right for all tenants. In addition, it gives judges discretion to limit the time tenants have to connect with their RTC attorney instead of ensuring judges uphold tenants’ Right to Counsel.
In January, Assembly Member Joyner and Senator May introduced a much stronger version of statewide Right to Counsel for all tenants and the infrastructure needed to implement that vision. This budget does not reflect that bold vision or the vision of the tenant movement that is championing RTC.
Most importantly it does not establish a Right to Counsel. While the assembly showed leadership in advancing the idea of RTC, the senate left out RTC completely.
The fact that the infrastructure for RTC is in the Assembly budget is a huge opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers at risk of losing their homes and for all New Yorkers impacted by the disruption and violence of evictions. This is an important moment. We are calling on the Senate and Assembly leadership to go further and to pass and fund a TRUE Right to Counsel for ALL Tenants (S2721/A1493) and to ensure that the courts uphold and defend this right TODAY (S3254 / A4993).