During an invitation-only event on Jan. 28, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and White House staff members applauded UCLA School of Law and other law schools nationwide for their work in addressing the country’s housing and eviction crisis.
The law schools joined forces after Garland issued a call to action last year, asking for a united effort to confront the crisis. Since then, students from 99 law schools worked more than 81,000 hours to provide legal assistance to people who are unhoused or housing insecure.
UCLA Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin, Associate Dean for Public Interest Law Brad Sears, Veterans Legal Affairs clinic co-director Jeanne Nishimoto, and a small group of UCLA Law students joined in the virtual event, where Garland spoke of the important and impactful work that went into the sweeping effort.
“Five months ago, I asked the legal community to answer the call to help Americans facing eviction,” Garland said. “Law students and lawyers from across the country stepped up to take on cases and assist their clients and communities at a time when our country needed it the most.”
For members of the UCLA Law community, the call was easy to answer.
“From providing eviction defense and mediating disagreements between tenants and landlords, to conducting cutting edge research measuring the scope and impact of the eviction crisis, the UCLA Law community has played a critical role in addressing the housing crisis in Los Angeles,” says Brad Sears.
Numerous ongoing projects at the law school address the needs of housing-insecure Angelenos. And in response to Garland’s call, UCLA Law launched additional efforts that aim to curb a housing crisis that has grown worse during the pandemic. Highlights:
UCLA Law placed an eviction defense and prevention fellow with Bet Tzedek’s Eviction Defense Project. The fellow worked on client intake, prepared training materials for pro bono attorneys who would assist individuals with applications to the country’s Emergency Relief Assistance Program, helped lead “know your rights” workshops for vulnerable populations, and provided direct counsel and advice under the supervision of Bet Tzedek attorneys.
- Students in the Veterans Legal Clinic assisted 19 households on landlord-tenant issues. These included negotiating reasonable accommodations and ensuring necessary repairs are made.
- The Immigrant Family Legal Clinic provided legal consultations to housing-challenged families of students in the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, where the clinic is located.
- Through UCLA Law’s externship program, students worked on numerous pressing issues that intersect with housing insecurity. These include the school to prison pipeline, for which students provided over 400 hours, and mass incarceration, with students providing 1,432 hours representing indigent defendants through public defender offices from Los Angeles to Alaska.
- Student volunteers in the El Centro Legal Clinics performed 1,485 hours of pro bono work on housing matters. They collaborated with community organizations that are dedicated to tenants’ rights, workers’ rights, reentry from incarceration, survivors of domestic violence, and unemployment insurance.
- More broadly, more than 450 faculty, staff, students, and alumni throughout the UCLA Law community delivered over 1,000 hours of pro bono legal services during the Public Service Challenge last fall. Their work included supporting eviction defense and combatting root causes of housing instability.
“When the Attorney General issued his call for the legal community last fall, I knew we would see an outpouring of support and action from our UCLA community and I am terrifically proud of what everyone has done and continues to do,” says Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin. “We are also very fortunate to have excellent community partners in Los Angeles -- the legal services providers who are on the front lines of fighting the housing crisis.”
“The breadth and depth of what our community has done to help people during the crisis of the past two years is incredibly impressive—but it also shouldn’t surprise anyone. That is the UCLA Law way.“