In June 2020, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law established the National Anti-Eviction Project in response to Congress’ failure to extend the federal eviction moratorium and the lack of steps taken to address the looming eviction crisis. Working together with local organizing and housing groups, the project aims to recruit and train pro–bono lawyers and law students to provide direct legal representation to tenants facing eviction. The first areas to be served are the Twin Cities- Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.
Nearly 3,800 Households in Minnesota are currently at risk of eviction
Amidst a global pandemic, the project comes at a time in which people need their own space to appropriately self-isolate and avoid needless interaction. Though Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued eviction moratoriums, nearly 3,800 households in Minnesota are currently at risk of eviction if these were to expire. This looming eviction crisis disproportionately impacts Black Americans and communities of color, and the Anti-Eviction Project is necessary to ensure the health and safety of Minnesotans amid a global health crisis.
“I spent a year meeting with many legal aid lawyers, community groups and policy makers for our work on the Twin Cities Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice. Through that process we determined what the issues were and developed several policy solutions to increase access and protect renters specifically,” said Sarah Carthen Watson, an attorney for the Fair Housing and Community Development project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Households of color are underrepresented in Minnesota’s high homeownership rates, given factors such as the racial wealth gap and lending discrimination. This means we are particularly concerned with communities of color who are at high risk for eviction amidst a global pandemic. This looming eviction crisis has demonstrated the violence of evictions and what evictions can do to people in such uncertain times.”
Carthen Watson has both state and national litigation and policy experience. Lawrence McDonough, a Minneapolis-based attorney with more than 30 years of civil litigation and knowledge of Minnesota landlord and tenant statues, will accompany her in leading the project. McDonough has already presented in several law school classes and is scheduling trainings with law firms to recruit pro bono attorneys.
“The main part of this project is really training, mentoring and consulting with these pro-bono lawyers and law students,” McDonough said. “Executive orders run on a month to month basis, with the current one running through October 12. Though I am optimistic Governor Walz will extend this current anti-eviction order, we must continue to call attention to this project. It is important we provide the assistance to these tenants at risk to ensure their health and safety amidst a global pandemic.”
As of Oct. 1, McDonough had trained 20 law students to assist with the project, and recruited about 60 pro-bono attorneys.
The project will also help tenants in Baltimore, Maryland and New Orleans, Louisiana.