Gerry Kaluzny, supervising attorney with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS), along with his colleagues in the Second Judicial District’s Housing Court Workgroup, were recently honored with the A. M. "Sandy" Keith Alternative Dispute Resolution Award.
The award, presented by the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), recognizes an individual or group committed to the promotion and support of the use of alternative dispute resolution processes, particularly in conjunction with the courts. The award was presented at DRC’s 35th Anniversary and Volunteer Recognition Celebration, held the evening of Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Earlier this year, Chief Judge John Guthmann convened a working group of community stakeholders to address challenges to the rental market that frequently find their way into the Second Judicial District Housing Court. In addition to SMRLS, the group included Volunteer Lawyers Network, the McKnight Foundation, the National Center for State Courts, Family Housing Fund, Ramsey County Human Services, Dispute Resolution Center, Ramsey County Court Administration, St. Paul PED, and landlord representatives. At the conclusion of the group's work last June, a report was issued with recommendations for improving the housing court for both tenants and landlords.
Significant recommendations and action items from the report included:
- Strengthening information available to tenants and landlords before and at court
- Providing space at the Housing Court for Ramsey County emergency assistance workers to provide information and screening on emergency assistance for tenants in need of rental assistance
- Expanding representation options with pro bono attorneys and law school clinics
- Making it easier for tenants to obtain expungments by modifying settlement forms and having judicial officers recommend expungment by agreement
- Developing a “pilot” mediation program for evictions in advance of the court date or filing
- Exploring the viability of a Housing Court Administrative order or rule that would maintain the confidentiality of an eviction filing until the case is determined on its merits.