The Charlotte School of Law has created a new practice ready program designed to assist low income individuals facing eviction. The Homeless Prevention Clinic (HPC) would be a joint venture of the Charlotte School of Law (CSL) and Legal Aid of North Carolina – Charlotte (LANC).
The purpose of the HPC is three fold. First, the HPC will advance Charlotte School of Law’s public service mission pillar by representing low-income tenants in Mecklenburg County both in court and through providing legal advice in order to avoid evictions, for which there is an overwhelming need. In Mecklenburg County, approximately thirty-seven thousand (37,000) small claims actions are filed every year and about ninety-five percent (95%) of those actions appear to be summary ejectment of residential tenants. The vast majority of tenants in these actions are not represented by counsel. In addition, only a small percentage of these cases are appealed to district court (465 appeals in 2011, 577 appeals in 2012, and around 590 appeals in 2013). The local homeless services agencies reported increases of between 21% to 36% in homelessness among families with children each year from 2009 to 2013.
The LANC-Charlotte office receives around 20 to 40 new calls per day from tenants threatened with eviction. Currently, the LANC-Charlotte office only has three full-time staff attorneys, one paralegal, and a part-time call screener to handle eviction cases. Due to the large volume of calls and limited resources available to LANC, the LANC-Charlotte office is sometimes forced to close intake for tenants in conventional housing and only accept calls from tenants who receive federal rent subsidies. Tenants who receive a rent subsidy are far more likely to become homeless when facing an eviction because being evicted will almost always result in those tenants also being terminated from the subsidy program that they rely on to pay their rent.
Second, the HPC will assist Charlotte School of Law’s commitment to producing practice ready, public interest law students by creating a rigorous academic experience that will teach them the substantive and procedural rules of landlord-tenant laws; teach them about the federally subsidized housing programs; and expose students to interviewing skills, case analysis, evidentiary strategy, negotiation, trial preparation, and representation of clients in administrative hearings and trials.
Third, the HPC will provide CSL the opportunity to develop an extensive and long-lasting partnership with LANC that will expand opportunities for both organizations to advance meaningful change in the community for low/no income tenants.
CSL has hired Brian O’Shaughnessy to teach and supervise the HPC students which began in the fall semester of 2015. Prior to joining CSL, Professor O’Shaughnessy served as a Staff Attorney for 4 years at the Winston-Salem office of Legal Aid, where he frequently represented low-income tenants in administrative hearings, small claims and district court, negotiated settlement agreements with landlords, and conducted community outreach on landlord-tenant issues. He also served a one-year fellowship in the Gastonia office of Legal Aid following his graduation from the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University in 2010, where he also practiced landlord-tenant law. While in law school he participated in the Elder Law Clinic. “I benefited greatly from my Clinic experience while in law school, and I look forward to working with the Clinic students to not only help them develop their litigation skills in furtherance of CSL’s commitment to producing practice ready lawyers, but also to share my passion for helping the most vulnerable members of our community.”