CALL FOR UCLA LAW COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS
EVICTION DEFENSE EMERGENCY
Eviction Cases in Los Angeles Set to Resume on September 1
Thousands of Tenants Will Have Only 5 Days to Answer or Face Eviction within 3 Weeks
Working together, UCLA Law can make a difference!
Dear UCLA Law Community:
We hope you are doing well. We know this is a busy time of year, but we are asking the UCLA Law Community to come together to help avoid one of the largest humanitarian crises that Los Angeles has ever seen. Starting on September 1, eviction proceedings could begin against thousands of tenants in Los Angeles County. An innovative community Eviction Defense Collaborative has created a simple online tool to help tenants to respond. However, many tenants will need assistance, and to provide that we need your help.
Without further action by the California legislature, eviction case filings will resume on September 1 and hundreds of thousands of tenant households are at risk of eviction and potential homelessness unless they receive assistance. A bill in the California state legislature, AB1436, would provide tenants with an additional defense to eviction related to COVID-19, but does not stop the filing of eviction cases.
When tenants are served with the court papers (a Summons and Complaint), they must file their own court papers (an Answer) within five (5) business days. If they are unable to do so, they lose automatically and face physical eviction within three weeks. Those without robust and resourced social networks will face homelessness: only 25% of currently unhoused Angelenos have access to shelter of any kind.
A May report by retired UCLA law professor Gary Blasi for the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy estimated that as a result of the pandemic there were about 365,000 households in Los Angeles County that were unable to pay rent. The most conservative estimate of those becoming homeless was 36,000 households, including about 55,000 children. Since May, the situation has grown more dire. An August 7 report published by UCLA scholar Paul Ong suggests that about 744,000 people in Los Angeles County are at high risk for eviction. Due to systemic racism and the highly disparate impact of COVID-19, Blacks and Latinx people are two and half times more likely to be at risk of eviction.
Even in normal times, the existing array of legal aid and public interest law firms can help only a small fraction of tenants facing eviction. In this time of COVID-19, these firms will be overwhelmed by the expected flood of eviction cases. To help fill that gap, a newly created Eviction Defense Collaborative is developing an on-line resource (an Eviction Defense Tool) to enable more tenants to be able to file answers either themselves or with assistance from a volunteer on the phone. The answers and other necessary paperwork will be filed electronically, so that tenants and their children need not risk COVID-19 by traveling to a courthouse to try to save their homes.
Once the Answer is filed, the need for assistance will not end. Unlawful detainer (eviction) cases move very quickly. In order to evict tenants before a trial, landlord lawyers can serve discovery and file motions for summary judgment, all of which require a written response in 5 days. If tenants don't respond, they risk being evicted without a trial. These trials can move forward within 20 days (although it is unlikely that the court system can accommodate the deluge of eviction cases that are about to start).
Moreover, because of the current freeze and likely delay in legal evictions, some landlords have increasingly turned to illegal evictions: lockouts, shutting off utilities, harassment, and sometimes violence. Tenant organizations have begun providing direct action response to illegal lockouts out of necessity, but they need help.
The Eviction Defense Collaborative is comprised of lawyers and legal workers, tenants unions, debtors' unions, community organizers, anti-racist activists and socially responsible software engineers and is coordinated by Professor of Law Emeritus Gary Blasi and UCLA Associate Professor and Debt Collective co-founder Hannah Appel.
While this crisis seems almost overwhelming, together the UCLA Law community can make a difference!
HERE IS HOW YOU CAN VOLUNTEER TO HELP
Law Students and Non-Lawyers: For this work, you only need to have computer skills, access to the internet, and be willing to be trained through on-line resources. Those conversant in languages other than English will have a particularly critical role to play. Training will be provided on-line. We need volunteers:
- Prepare answers to unlawful detainer complaints for tenants by using the Eviction Defense Tool and entering information obtained in real time telephone conversations with tenants.
- To help tenants whose paperwork has been rejected by the court clerk to remedy the identified problems and resubmit them to us for electronic filing.
The time commitment for this work is flexible. After completing the training there is no required number of total or weekly hours.
The volunteer work described above is not eligible to meet the New York State Bar or other pro bono requirements. If opportunities to meet such requirements are created in the future, we will provide an update to this page.
Lawyers: We need pro bono lawyers who can provide:
- Limited representation of tenants who are served with discovery or motions for summary judgement for the purpose of assisting them with filing a legally sufficient response within 5 days. On-line training and sample materials will be provided.
- Full representation of tenants, including negotiating with plaintiffs or their attorneys and, ultimately if necessary, representation at trial.
- Immediate legal support to tenants and organizations fighting illegal evictions, including illegal lockouts, and/or pro bono or contingent fee representation for tenants in litigation against landlords for the illegal eviction and associated torts.
Thank you for your help,
Professor of Law Emeritus
UCLA School of Law
Co-coordinator of the Eviction Defense Collaborative
Assistant Dean for Experiential Education
UCLA School of Law
Associate Dean of Public Interest Law,
UCLA School of Law