Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Civil Right to Counsel Updates

From John Pollock at the National Coalition for A Civil Right to Counsel:

Reports and Media on the Housing Right to Counsel Front
A report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Protect Tenants, Prevent Homelessness, "details the relationships between renters’ rights, evictions, and homelessness, highlighting issues low-income renters face and providing recommendations for improving housing security among vulnerable populations.” It contains a section on right to counsel authored by me that is part of the report’s analysis of how to stabilize housing by preventing unnecessary evictions.  As you’ve seen from other emails, there will be a webinar about this report on Thursday.  Here’s the link to register.
The Center for Social Innovation’s new report, Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities, has some startling statistics on how people of color represent a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population, even when accounting for income. One of their solutions? "All individuals facing eviction in housing court should have appropriate representation.”
Finally, the NYC Office of Civil Justice’s 2017 report found that as a result of the City’s investment in housing representation, 70,000 New Yorkers kept their homes from 2014-2017, while evictions have declined 27% since 2013 and eviction filings dropped by 17,000 during that same period.
Elsewhere, NCCRC partner Hazel Remesch, who has a grant to pursue a housing right to counsel with Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, appeared on News 5 Cleveland to talk about the efforts in that city and how they connect with the national housing right to counsel movement.  Hazel also joined WCPN (a NPR affiliate) alongside a Cleveland housing court judge to talk about the way housing court works and the need for counsel in such cases (the WCPN discussion of housing court starts around the 13:00 mark).
Child custody
In New Jersey Div. of Child Prot. & Permanency v. S.D., 2018 N.J. Super. LEXIS 37 * (2018), there was an abuse/neglect case filed against a parent that was subsequently “interrupted” by the grandmother obtaining private custody.  The parent objected to the court addressing the private custody case and dismissing the abuse/neglect proceeding since she still wanted state services. The Superior Court held that "The court's technical designation of a hearing as FD [private custody] or FN [abuse/neglect] should not hamper the court's mission to safeguard the welfare of children.  When unusual procedures are undertaken, however, it is crucial to ensure that the parents are represented by counsel. Counsel are statutorily appointed for indigent parents only in Children in Court cases. N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.43(a), 9:6-8.30(a), 30:4C-15.4(a). Designating a hearing as a combination FD/FN hearing would ensure the participation of defense counsel and the Law Guardian, and should have occurred here."

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