NYC council: poor tenants should have eviction lawyers

Note that the proposal here is not to provide free lawyers in cases where careful case-screening establishes a fair argument that the eviction is in some way legally wrongful or unjustified. It’s to use taxpayer money to make sure that tenants who’ve trashed the apartment or stiffed the landlord on months of rent are also assigned a lawyer who will predictably use all the procedural leverage available to stall things out further, extract a payment as a condition for the tenant’s leaving, and so forth. NYU’s Brennan Center is pushing the scheme, which has 22 sponsors on the New York City council. (Manny Fernandez, “Free Legal Aid Sought for Elderly Tenants”, New York Times, Nov. 16). For more about “Civil Gideon” schemes, see this post (scroll) and this one (David Giacalone: “Attorney Employment Assurance Plan”).

P.S.: To clarify matters: for now, the program would apply to elderly tenants (which doesn’t mean all the occupants of the apartment will necessarily be elderly).

One Comment

  • “Your Honor, winter approaches. There is just no place for this unfortunate drug addict, and her eight children, disabled by ADHD to go. We need an accommodation under the ADA by a six months extension on payment and eviction.”

    This proposal supports the Rent Seeking Theory as the Grand Unifying Theory of Lawyer Policy.

    Weird, expensive, socially self-defeating, otherwise inexplicable policies generate lawyer jobs. They never openly express rent seeking. Lawyers express other arguments as pretexts.

    For example, they will argue, poor landlords will benefit from free representation also. That argument is really good in generating two lawyer jobs per dispute. Perhaps, the city could participate, by requiring an advocate arguing homeless shelters have no room for the evicted, generating a third lawyer job. As the dispute drags on for months or years, it gives a fourth lawyer job security, the one on the bench.

    Meanwhile, if one believes in property rights, and paying for what one gets, justice gets trashed as well as the apartment.