Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey joined representatives from 10 Twin Cities law firms, Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN), Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and Minneapolis tenants to launch the More Representation Minneapolis (More Representation) housing initiative.
More Representation is a collaboration aimed at increasing representation of tenants in Hennepin County housing court. Through the initiative, several Twin Cities law firms have already committed to partnering through this initiative by increasing their participation in eviction defense and rent escrow/tenant remedies actions in 2019.
“Housing is a right and securing that right requires representation in housing court,” said Frey. “More Representation Minneapolis is aimed at providing just that by utilizing the resources in our legal community and targeting them to prevent unfair eviction.”
“Studies have shown that tenants who have an attorney representing them in housing court have significantly better outcomes. At VLN, our goal is to help fill gaps in representation with volunteer attorneys from the private bar,” said Muria Kruger, housing program manager and resource attorney at VLN. “And right now, there are significant gaps in the representation of low-income tenants who cannot afford to hire their own lawyer.”
“Some laws and local ordinances exist to protect the rights of tenant families but the justice system demands they assert those protections themselves, in open court, at one of the most stressful times of their lives,” said Luke Grundman, managing attorney at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. “Lawyers serve a vital role at a vital moment.”
VLN is setting out to add 25 additional volunteer lawyers and increase its housing representation work by 20 percent in 2019. The commitment would bring the total number of housing volunteer attorneys to 310 and their total number of volunteer hours to 2,300.
Fewer than 10 percent of Hennepin County tenants facing eviction have an attorney representing them when their eviction cases are heard in court while roughly half of landlords have an attorney. Every year, approximately 2,700 households in Minneapolis presently face eviction without an attorney in the courtroom.
Law firms already committed to More Representation include Barnes & Thornburg; Dorsey & Whitney; Faegre Baker Daniels; Fredrikson & Byron; Jones Day; McEllistrom, Fargione, Landy, Rorvig & Eken; Merchant & Gould, Robins Kaplan, Anthony Ostlund Baer & Louwagie, Gray Plant Mooty, Stinson and Leonard, and Maslon LLP.
Frey has made an investment of $150,000 in his 2019 budget for his Eviction Representation Pilot, which will fund legal services for low income renters facing displacement from their housing.