Housing Court Project Study Shows How Legal Help Can Prevent Homelessness

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The cover story in this month’s Bench and Bar of Minnesota is proof positive that the Housing Court Project in Hennepin County is preventing homelessness and family instability on a regular basis. The article, authored by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Luke Grundman, along with project colleagues Muria Kruger of Volunteer Lawyers Network and Tom Tinkham former Dorsey and Whitney trial partner, describes the project and a recent study examining its effectiveness.

For the past 18 years, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA) and Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) have maintained a legal clinic at the Hennepin County Courthouse offering eviction advice and full representation, as well as help negotiating settlements and preparing expungement petitions. Recently, the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, and the Pohlad Family Foundation have provided significant financial support to bolster this vital court project. The clinic is staffed by 11 attorneys from MMLA, and in 2017 alone, nearly 150 volunteer attorneys from VLN provided 1,400 hours of legal service.

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The study on the project’s impact compared results for tenants who were unrepresented to those who received limited advice or help and then to those who received full representation. Eleven random court calendar days were selected for review. Results demonstrated that those represented in eviction proceedings have better outcomes and those fully represented have even more positive outcomes. Read more in Bench and Bar of Minnesota.

Mayor and Local Housing Advocates Launch "More Representation Minneapolis"

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The Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN) and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA), along with a group of twelve area law firms, have joined forces to combat the growing problem of unrepresented litigants in housing court. Their initiative - More Representation Minneapolis - will bring an increased cohort of pro bono attorneys to the aid of low-income tenants in eviction defense and rent escrow/tenant remedy actions in 2019. VLN and MMLA will anchor the More Representation Minneapolis project, which has a short-term goal of adding 25 additional attorneys to VLN’s network, and increasing their housing representation work by 20 percent.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the project will help prevent unfair evictions by utilizing the existing resources in our legal community, and it dovetails with the $150,000 in his 2019 proposed city budget to launch a pilot project to fund legal services for low-income renters facing displacement.

Speaking to the Star Tribune, Luke Grundman, managing attorney of the housing unit at MMLA, said, “People have nowhere to go. If you have an eviction on your record, it’s almost impossible [to find housing].”

Read more about More Representation Minneapolis in the Minnesota Lawyer.

CMLS Attorney to be Honored at MJF’s Annual Awards Celebration November 7

Elizabeth F. Sauer

Elizabeth F. Sauer

This Wednesday, November 7, marks Minnesota Justice Foundation’s Annual Awards Celebration. Every year since 1991, MJF has honored the work of public interest attorneys, private pro bono attorneys, advocates, and law students whose commitment to service shines as a beacon of hope and embodies the very best of our profession.

This year, MJF’s award for Outstanding Service by a Direct Legal Services provider will go to Elizabeth F. Sauer, supervising attorney at Central Minnesota Regional Legal Services (CMLS).

Sauer has been the housing supervising attorney at CMLS since May 2017, with over seven years of prior service as a staff attorney. While she focuses on housing law, her caseload also includes family law cases, predominantly Orders for Protection. Her advocacy skills and legal knowledge exceed expectations for her seniority at CMLS, and she handles hundreds of housing cases on an annual basis. Countless tenants in Hennepin and Anoka counties have avoided homelessness because of Sauer’s outstanding advocacy.

Sauer has become an expert in subsidized housing law, and CMLS attorneys who have cases involving vouchers, as well as attorneys from other legal aid programs, regularly consult with her on their own cases. She mentors CMLS attorneys in all the program’s offices, and provides counsel to other attorneys in Minnesota, thereby improving advocacy for clients statewide.

Sauer has represented over a thousand clients during her career, and through her mentoring of others, has impacted hundreds more cases. She is always on the look-out for new ways to apply the law to ensure that clients remain housed, and that their housing is in good repair.  Her work recognizes the essential role that housing plays in a client’s success in all areas of life. 

MJF’s 2018 award winners also include Timothy McLarnan of McLarnan & Skatvold – Moorhead, recipient of the Private Practice Award; Imani Jaafar of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, recipient of the Advocate Award; and law students Royzetta Evans of Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Dr. Susan Craig, M. D. of the University of Minnesota Law School, and Jonathan Snyder of the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

There’s still time to get a ticket to the Annual Awards Celebration. Click here for more information and to reserve your ticket.

Mayo Clinic Recognizes SMRLS, LAOC, and Partners With Shared Value Award

Rochester’s famed Mayo Clinic lauded Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) and Legal Assistance of Olmsted County (LAOC) this month for their efforts to prevent evictions in Olmsted County. Along with collaborators Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and Olmsted County District Court, LAOC and SMRLS received the 2018 Mayo Clinic Shared Value Award for their “Eviction Prevention” project.  

Mayo’s annual award addresses community-wide health priorities in Olmsted County, and the Eviction Prevention project is designed to help address financial stress and mental health.

Karen Fairbairn Nath, executive director of LAOC noted, “Once a notice of eviction is filed with the court, the eviction is permanently on an individual’s record and may, at minimum, prevent a person from obtaining future rental housing. This often brings on a cascading set of negative effects, including longer-term financial instability and mental health stress for individuals and families, among others.” Read more about the project and award.