The Civil Legal Aid Crisis in Eviction Cases: Options and Opportunities

Close up of an eviction notice hanging on a door, photo by Vyacheslav Dumchev/Getty Images

Event Details

Date: Friday, June 23, 2023
Times: 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Reception to follow 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Location: Hilton Washington, D.C. - Capitol Hill
525 New Jersey Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

How to Attend

Registration is now closed.

Please join the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, the Berkeley Law Civil Justice Research Initiative, and the Berkeley Judicial Institute as we seek to evolve the conversation surrounding the civil legal aid crisis and identify actionable strategies for change.

An average day in a typical housing court will see about 97% of tenants appearing without an attorney. Conversely, about 81% of landlords appear with legal representation. In an adversarial legal system that assumes both parties have representation, tenants can be at a severe disadvantage. This disparity persists despite research that shows the vast majority of tenants with representation experience positive outcomes. They avoid displacement or meet their goal of achieving additional time to move out, allowing them to locate long-term safe and stable housing.

View the program agenda


James Anderson

James Anderson

Director, Justice Policy Program; Director, RAND Institute for Civil Justice; Senior Behavioral Scientist

James Anderson is director of RAND’s Justice Policy Program and a senior behavioral scientist. He has researched a variety of legal policy issues ranging from insurance and autonomous vehicles to the effects of zoning on crime. He has been funded by the National Institute of Justice, the National Institutes of Health, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the State of Pennsylvania, the Institute for Civil Justice, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation.

Anderson’s work has appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Journal of Law and Economics, the Oxford University Press, and in numerous RAND publications. He has presented to a wide variety of academic and professional audiences. He is a member of the American Law Institute. Before joining RAND, Anderson clerked for the Honorable Morton Greenberg of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and represented death row prisoners as a public defender for 10 years. He received a J.D. from Yale Law School and a B.A in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University.

Edwin Bell

Edwin T. Bell

Director of Racial Justice, Equity and Inclusion, National Center for State Courts

Edwin T. Bell serves as the director of Racial Justice, Equity and Inclusion for the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). With over 25 years of experience in the justice system in his home state of Georgia, Bell has previously served in judicial branch capacities as the deputy court administrator for the Superior Court of DeKalb County, as well as the clerk of court for the Juvenile Court of Fulton County. He has held various professional roles within justice-related organizations including the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Office of the Governor, and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Bell is a lifelong learner and holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice, a master’s in business administration, multiple court program certifications, and is a Fellow of the Institute for Court Management. Despite his professional pursuits, Bell’s true joy in life is his family, which includes his beautiful wife and their two wonderful children.

Emily A. Benfer

Emily A. Benfer

Associate Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the Health Equity Policy & Advocacy Clinic, George Washington Law School; Visiting Research Collaborator, Eviction Lab, Princeton University

Emily A. Benfer is associate professor of clinical law and director of the Health Equity Policy & Advocacy Clinic at George Washington Law School; a visiting research collaborator at Eviction Lab of Princeton University; and the chair of the American Bar Association Task Force on Eviction, Housing Stability, and Equity.

Benfer’s areas of research and clinic practice include health equity, social justice, housing and eviction, inter-professional education, environmental and racial justice, and medical-legal partnership. She has testified before Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and appeared in numerous media outlets on these topics. Benfer’s work has been published in law reviews, peer-reviewed journals, and national media outlets.

An expert in eviction, housing, and health law and policy, she was the principal investigator in a study of nationwide pandemic mitigation policies that control the eviction process and preserve housing. Benfer’s COVID-19 research was cited in multiple federal and court orders designed to control the pandemic.

She served as a senior policy advisor to the White House and American Rescue Plan Implementation Team between 2021-2022, where she focused on eviction prevention and housing policy. She has held numerous academic appointments, including as a visiting professor of law and public health at Wake Forest University, a visiting faculty member and the founding director of the Health Justice Advocacy Clinic at Columbia Law School, and a visiting distinguished scholar and senior fellow at Yale Law School Solomon Center for Health Law & Policy. Between 2010-2017, Benfer served as a clinical professor of law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine Department of Public Health, where she founded and directed an award winning medical-legal partnership at Erie Family Health Centers to resolve the social determinants of poor health for patients.

Benfer served as a teaching fellow and supervising attorney in the Federal Legislation Clinic at Georgetown Law Center. In practice, she was a legislative lawyer in the successful efforts to pass the ADA Amendments Act; to amend the federal Lead Safe Housing Rule definition of lead poisoning; to require education assistance for homeless children and youth in Washington, D.C.; and to align the Illinois definition of lead poisoning with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standard, among others. Benfer has engaged in direct representation, class action litigation, grassroots organizing, creative advocacy strategies, and federal and state policy reform in multiple areas of public interest law, including homelessness, lead poisoning prevention, special education, housing, health, eviction prevention, environmental justice, disability, and public benefits at non-profit organizations and a public interest law firm. She served as an Equal Justice Works fellow and a Peace Corps volunteer.

Benfer has received numerous commendations for her efforts to advance U.S. housing policy and secure health justice, including the American Public Health Association David P. Rall Award for Advocacy, and an American Bar Association Presidential Commendation.

Anne Bloom

Anne Bloom

Executive Director, Civil Justice Research Initiative

Anne Bloom, executive director of the Civil Justice Research Initiative, has a distinguished record of accomplishment in both academia and public interest law. Before becoming the executive director of the Civil Justice Research Initiative, she was the director of public programs for Equal Justice Works in Washington, D.C. and associate director of the Civil Justice Program at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Prior to that, she was associate dean for research and professor of law at McGeorge Law School where she taught courses in litigation, law and politics, and public interest law.

Before becoming a professor, Bloom was a staff attorney at Public Justice in Washington, D.C. She holds both a J.D. and a Ph.D. in political science and has authored many articles on civil justice-related subjects. Her recent publications include “Injury and Injustice,” in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science (2020) and “The Future of Injury: Tort Law in the Wake of Covid,” in DePaul Law Review (Clifford Symposium Issue), forthcoming (2022).

Erwin Chemerinsky

Erwin Chemerinsky

Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

Erwin Chemerinsky is dean and Jesse H. Choper distinguished professor of law at the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Prior to assuming this position, he was the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and a professor at Duke Law School, University of Southern California Law School, and DePaul Law School. He is the author of 15 books and over 200 law review articles. He frequently argues appellate cases, including in the United States Supreme Court. In 2022, he was the president of the Association of American Law Schools.

Renee Danser

Renee Danser

Associate Director of Research and Strategic Partnerships, Access to Justice Lab

Renee Danser is the associate director of research and strategic partnerships, Access to Justice Lab. Drawing on her knowledge of justice system operations and the pressures on the justice system, Danser joined the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School to incorporate rigorous research into improving access to justice.

Danser believes that for our research to be impactful, we must recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the communities reviewing and incorporating it. Using her court management and non-profit leadership experience, Danser encourages courts and the justice community to think about their needs and the needs of their users and how to successfully balance those interests.

Joanna K. Darcus

Joanna K. Darcus

Senior Counsel, Office for Access to Justice, U.S. Department of Justice

Joanna K. Darcus recently joined the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice as senior counsel with a particular focus on civil legal policy issues including housing and debt collection. Darcus came to ATJ from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the General Counsel, and she completed a year-long detail in the Director’s Front Office at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in May 2023.

Darcus previously worked at the National Consumer Law Center where she focused on consumer financial protection litigation and advanced a higher education policy agenda to address issues facing people with low-incomes and communities of color. Before that, Darcus was a supervising attorney at Community Legal Services, Inc. of Philadelphia where her team performed in-person intakes for folks who were applying for free legal services. She also represented hundreds of consumers sued by debt collectors or struggling with student loans, promoting housing stability, and preventing unnecessary bankruptcy filings. Before law school, Darcus was a case manager/paralegal at Juvenile Law Center, helping to provide holistic representation to young people who were aging out of foster care and advocating for system reform. She is a graduate of Duke University School of Law and Williams College.

Detrese Dowridge

Detrese Dowridge

Lead Tenant Organizer and Steering Committee Member, Baltimore Renters United

Detrese Dowridge, lead tenant organizer and steering committee member for Baltimore Renters United was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Dowridge has been working as a tenant advocate since May 2013 when she joined Right to Housing Alliance which has since merged with Baltimore Renters United (BRU). She also serves on BRU's steering committee to help guide and build a movement to push renters rights. In March 2014, Dowridge, who was a tenant of Sage Management along with other tenants, filed a successful class action lawsuit against Sage Management and was successful with winning nearly a one million dollar settlement for current and past tenants.

Dowridge is the proud recipient of the 2014 John P. Sarbanes Courage Award from the Public Justice Center for her work in housing justice. Having been impacted by housing injustice, she became passionate about educating and helping others who are dealing with housing injustice in Baltimore. She has testified city and statewide during the legislative session advocating for renters rights. In June 2022 Dowridge became the first full-time tenant organizer with Baltimore Renters United, where she continues to advocate for renters rights in Baltimore and hopes to spread her work nationwide.

David Freeman Engstrom

David Freeman Engstrom

LSVF Professor in Law at Stanford and Co-Director of the Deborah L. Rhode Center on the Legal Profession

David Freeman Engstrom is the LSVF professor in law at Stanford and co-director of the Deborah L. Rhode Center on the Legal Profession. An expert in civil procedure, administrative law, and law and technology, Engstrom focuses his current work on the millions of low-dollar but highly consequential cases, including debt collection, eviction, and family law matters, that shape the lives of Americans each year. He currently serves as the reporter for the American Law Institute’s Principles of the Law, High-Volume Civil Adjudication, which will offer courts guidance on the urgent challenges these cases raise. Engstrom’s expertise also extends to law and technology. His edited volume, Legal Tech and the Future of Civil Justice, was published by Cambridge University Press earlier this year From 2018-2020, he served as a principal advisor to the Administrative Conference of the United States on the project, Government by Algorithm: Artificial Intelligence in Federal Administrative Agencies.

Engstrom is an elected member of the American Law Institute, an appointed member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and a faculty affiliate at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, where he chairs the Technology Policy Governance committee. He has a J.D. from Stanford Law School, an M.Sc. from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. from Yale University. Before joining Stanford's faculty, he clerked for judge Diane Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and practiced at Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick, representing clients before the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts and agencies.

Jeremy Fogel

Jeremy Fogel

Executive Director, Berkeley Judicial Institute

On September 17, 2018, Judge Jeremy Fogel became the first executive director of the Berkeley Judicial Institute, a center at Berkeley Law School whose mission is to build bridges between judges and academics and to promote an ethical, resilient, and independent judiciary. Prior to his appointment at Berkeley, he served as director of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. (2011-2018), as a United States district judge for the Northern District of California(1998-2011), and as a judge of the Santa Clara County Superior(1986-1998) and Municipal(1981-1986) Courts. He was the founding directing attorney of the Mental Health Advocacy Project from 1978 to 1981.

Fogel has served as a faculty member for the Federal Judicial Center since 2002 and was a lecturer at Stanford Law School from 2003 until his relocation to Washington. He taught for the California Continuing Judicial Studies Program and California Judicial College from 1987 to 2010 and has served as a faculty member for legal exchanges in more than a dozen foreign countries. He received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1971 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1974.

Fogel has received numerous accolades, including the President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the California Judiciary from the California Judges Association and the Vanguard Award for notable contributions to intellectual property law from the State Bar of California. In 2002, he received special recognition from the Santa Clara County Bar Association for exemplifying the highest standards of professionalism in the judiciary.

Among his major areas of interest are judicial administration, judicial decision making (including effective ways to teach judges about unconscious bias and the impact of emotion), and judicial wellness.

Solomon Greene

Solomon Greene

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Solomon Greene leads HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research, which informs policy development and implementation to improve life in American communities through conducting, supporting, and sharing research, surveys, demonstrations, program evaluations, and best practices.

Greene has dedicated his career to improving people’s lives and strengthening communities through evidence-based and community-driven housing and urban development policies. Prior to joining HUD, Greene held leadership positions in research institutions, affordable housing and community development organizations, local and federal governments, and philanthropy. For over seven years, he was a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, where he led research on fair and affordable housing, land use, technology and inclusive growth and recovery in cities. Before joining the Urban Institute, Greene served a senior adviser at HUD, where he helped develop policies to reduce segregation and expand neighborhood choice and he served as HUD’s principal adviser on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Greene has also served as a senior program officer at the Open Society Foundations, an adjunct professor at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, a law fellow at NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a litigation associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson, and a law clerk on the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He served on the board of directors for the National Housing Law Project, the American Bar Association COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Evictions, and the advisory board for Up for Growth. Greene received his BA from Stanford University, his MCP from the University of California, Berkeley, and his JD from Yale Law School. He grew up in Ulster County, New York and currently lives in Washington, D.C.

Deborah E. Greenspan

Deborah E. Greenspan

Partner, Mass Torts & Complex Disputes, Blank Rome LLP

Deborah E. Greenspan is a partner with Blank Rome LLP. She is a leading advisor on mass claims strategy and resolution. Her practice focuses on class actions, mass claims, dispute resolution, insurance recovery, and mass tort bankruptcy. She has extensive experience in mass product liability matters, analysis of damages and future liability exposure, alternative dispute resolution (ADR), claims evaluation and dispute analysis, settlement distribution design and implementation, claims management, and risk analysis. She has represented clients in the most significant complex litigation matters in the United States, advising the companies on strategic options and efficient resolution of pending or minimizing the risk of potential future mass claims. Representative clients include Dow Corning Corporation (n/k/a Dow Silicones Corporation), Pfizer Inc., Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation, Armstrong World Industries Inc., and Corning Incorporated.

Greenspan has been appointed by judges and federal government institutions to serve as a special master both to analyze specific matters and to design and implement complex resolution programs to address thousands of personal injury claims. She currently serves as the special master in the Michigan Flint Water Cases. She was the court-appointed special master responsible for developing and implementing a settlement program to distribute funds to over 100,000 Vietnam veterans in the “Agent Orange” Product Liability Litigation. She served as the deputy special master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 and, for more than nine years, was responsible for conceiving the policies and for facilitating the distribution of over $9 billion to victims of the September 11 attacks. She serves as the special master in numerous cases involving claims for damages asserted under the state sponsor of terrorist exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Greenspan is the chair of the Dispute Resolution Committee of TIPS, the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association. She is a member of the Board of Advisors for the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, a member of the board of the Academy of Court-Appointed Neutrals, and a member of the board of the National Homelessness Law Center. She served as rapporteur for the American Arbitration Association Task Force on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Mass Tort and was the Co-Chair of the Mass Claims Commission of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR).

Greenspan graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School where she served as senior editor of the Michigan Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. She joined the Washington, D.C. office of an Am Law 100 firm, and in 1992 she helped form a boutique firm, The Feinberg Group. Prior to joining Blank Rome LLP, she was the co-leader of the complex dispute resolution practice at an Am Law 200 firm. She is currently co-practice group leader for the Energy, Environment and Mass Torts practice at Blank Rome LLP.

Paul Heaton

Paul Heaton

Professor and Academic Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Paul Heaton is a professor and academic director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. Much of his research aims to apply methodological insights from economics to inform issues in legal and criminal justice policy. An expert on legal and regulatory program and policy evaluation, Heaton’s criminal justice work spans a wide range of areas, including measurement of impacts of criminal justice interventions; applications of cost-benefit analysis to CJ programs; and evaluations of the CJ implications of public policies related to controlled substances.

His work on policing, courts, and drug offending has been widely cited by policymakers and the media. He has also published numerous empirical studies of tort law and insurance regulation. Heaton’s work is strongly cross-disciplinary, and he has co-authored papers with legal scholars, psychologists, statisticians, physicians, criminologists, and sociologists. His research has been published in leading scholarly journals such as the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Law and Economics, Journal of Labor Economics, and American Journal of Public Health. Prior to joining Penn Carey Law, Heaton served as the director of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice and professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Carolyn Kuhl

Carolyn B. Kuhl

Judge, Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles

Carolyn B. Kuhl has served on the Superior Court of the State of California since 1995. She has served in the Court’s Complex Civil Litigation Program, for more than 10 years. She served from 2013 through 2016 as presiding and assistant presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Before holding those positions, she served as the supervising judge of the Civil Departments of the Los Angeles Superior Court, a position she also held from 2003 through 2004.

Kuhl was a member of the Judicial Council from 2006 through 2009. She was a member of the statewide Advisory Committee on Civil Jury Instructions from 2001 through 2003. She has served on the Judicial Council Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee and on the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System, appointed by the chief justice of California.

Kuhl has a part-time appointment as a lecturer in law at UCLA Law School. She teaches frequently in judicial education programs, including in the Bolch Judicial Studies Institute Master’s Program. She has developed a curriculum to train judges in complex litigation case management.

Kuhl is a member of the American Law Institute and serves on the executive committee and on the Council of the Institute. She was appointed by the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court to serve on the Federal Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. She serves as vice chair on the board of advisors for the Institute for Civil Justice of the RAND Corporation.

Prior to taking the bench, Kuhl was a partner in the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson. From 1981 through 1986, she served in the United States Department of Justice as special assistant to the attorney general, deputy assistant attorney general (civil division), and principal deputy solicitor general, preparing and arguing cases before the United States Supreme Court. She was a law clerk to Anthony M. Kennedy when he sat as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Kuhl graduated with distinction from Duke Law School, was an editor of the Duke Law Journal, and received an A.B. degree, cum laude, from Princeton University.

Karen Lash

Karen A. Lash

Senior Fellow, The Georgetown Justice Lab

Karen Lash is a non-resident fellow at the Tech Institute and a senior fellow at the Georgetown Justice Lab. Lash’s consulting practice helps organizations and foundations working to close the justice gap. It builds on her experience working within government, universities, and nonprofits.

Her federal government work includes the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office for Access to Justice (ATJ). As a political appointee in the Obama administration (2010-2017) Lash held leadership positions including acting director and founding executive director of the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR). She conceptualized, implemented, and led LAIR, a first-of-its-kind executive branch policy-making model for civil legal aid, that brought together 22 federal agencies to identify programs, policies, and initiatives that could work more effectively and efficiently by incorporating legal aid. Lash’s work with LAIR, together with other collaborations while at DOJ, resulted in more than half-a-billion dollars to support legal aid, new research, and civil justice system collaborations that facilitated civil rights enforcement actions.

Lash joined the Biden administration’s efforts in 2021, helping to implement President Biden’s May 2021 memorandum regarding relaunching DOJ ATJ, which had been shuttered by the prior administration, and reinvigorating LAIR.

Between government stints, Lash served for four years as practitioner-in-residence and director of The Justice in Government Project (JGP) she launched at American University where, with foundation support, she worked with state government agencies to further their policy priorities regarding low-income and other underserved populations by integrating legal aid partners. While at JGP, she provided training and technical assistance resulting in more than $200 million in new state administered federal funds for legal aid and a toolkit now hosted by National Legal Aid & Defender Association(NLADA)to support on-going government-justice community collaboration in more than two dozen states.

Lash has also served as Equal Justice Works vice president of programs, University of Southern California Gould School of Law associate dean, Public Counsel’s child care law project director, Tuttle & Taylor associate, and clerk to U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge Warren J. Ferguson. A wide range of consulting clients include the Office of American Possibilities, The Pew Charitable Trusts, NLADA Mutual Insurance program, Casey Family Programs, Booz Allen Hamilton, The JPB Foundation, Mississippi Center for Justice, and the University of California law schools at Irvine and Berkeley. She has helped establish legal clinics and court programs in Moldova, Ukraine, Slovakia, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Macedonia, and Bahrain.

A frequent conference keynote and presenter, Lash’s published work has appeared in publications including Daedalus, TalkPoverty, MIE Journal, the DePaul Journal for Social Justice, the Mississippi Law Journal, and the South Carolina Law Review. Recent honors include Attorney General Eric Holder’s John Marshall Award for Outstanding Legal Achievement for Participation in Litigation (2014), recognition from Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her LAIR work (2016), Mississippi Center for Justice’s Champions award (2017), NLADA’s Innovation Award (2017), and Public Justice Center’s Outstanding Partner Award (2022). She is a Center for American Progress senior fellow.

Her extracurricular justice project educates and badgers friends, family, and anyone who will listen to kick the habit of single-use plastic.

Matthew McNicholas

Matthew McNicholas

Partner, McNicholas & McNicholas LLP

As one of the leading trial lawyers in California, Matthew S. McNicholas, partner at McNicholas & McNicholas LLP, represents victims in a range of areas, including catastrophic injury, wrongful death, employment law, product liability, sexual assault, and other consumer-oriented matters, such as civil rights and aviation disasters.

As panel counsel to the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, McNicholas also has an emphasis in representing police officers and firefighters in whistleblower-employment actions against their departments. He has recovered more than $100 million over his career on their behalf in cases involving racial and sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and wrongful termination.

His skill set goes well beyond the courtroom, having established the Loyola Law School Trial Advocacy Scholarship, which provides high-achieving law students the opportunity to receive both tuition assistance and a full-time, paid position at McNicholas & McNicholas as a summer scholar.

McNicholas is also a contributor to many other charities within the community, including Urban Compass, which provides educational services to underprivileged children; the Serra Project, which offers housing and support to people living with HIV/AIDS; the Library Foundation of Los Angeles; and AbilityFirst, which provides services to children and adults with disabilities.

Jamie Morikawa

Jamie Morikawa

Associate Director, RAND Institute for Civil Justice and the Kenneth R. Feinberg Center for Catastrophic Risk Management and Compensation

Jamie Morikawa is the associate director of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ) and the Kenneth R. Feinberg Center for Catastrophic Risk Management and Compensation, through which she is responsible for helping manage strategic direction and research portfolios. She also builds and maintains relationships with advisory board members, donors, and the private sector. She previously served as acting director of the ICJ, participating in management for ICJ and its related centers, including the Center for Corporate Ethics and Governance and the Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace.

Prior to joining RAND, Morikawa practiced entertainment litigation for three years, worked as assistant director of the UCLA School of Law's Office of Career Services, and played a significant role in helping to establish the UCLA Center for the Liberal Arts and Free Institutions.

Morikawa received her B.A. from UCLA and her J.D. from UCLA School of Law.

Rasheedah Phillips

Rasheedah Phillips

Director of Housing, PolicyLink

Rasheedah Phillips, director of housing at PolicyLink, leads its national advocacy to support the growing tenants’ rights, housing, and land use movements in partnership with grassroots partners, movement leaders, industry, and government leaders. Previously serving as managing attorney of housing policy at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Phillips has led various housing policy campaigns that resulted in significant legislative changes, including a right to counsel for tenants in Philadelphia, and the Renter’s Access Act, one of the strongest laws in the nation to address blanket ban eviction polices having a disparate impact on renters of color.

Phillips has trained on racial justice and housing law issues and skills throughout the country, previously serving as the senior advocate resources & training attorney at Shriver Center on Poverty Law. Phillips’ leadership has been recognized with the recipient of the 2017 National Housing Law Project Housing Justice Award, the 2017 City & State Pennsylvania 40 Under 40 Rising Star Award, the 2018 Temple University Black Law Student Association Alumni Award, and more. Phillips is also an interdisciplinary afrofuturist artist and cultural producer who has exhibited and performed work globally.

John Pollock

John Pollock

Coordinator, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel

John Pollock is a staff attorney for the Public Justice Center who has served since 2009 as the coordinator of the National Coalition for the Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC). The NCCRC works in 45 states at the state and local level to establish the right to counsel for low-income individuals in civil cases involving basic human needs such as child custody, housing, safety, mental health, and civil incarceration. He is the recipient of the 2018 Innovations Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA).

Previously, Pollock worked as the enforcement director for the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center and as a law fellow/consultant at the Southern Poverty Law Center. He graduated from Northeastern University School of Law, where he was a recipient of a Public Interest Law Scholarship (PILS). He is the author of many law review articles, including “Appointment of Counsel for Civil Litigants: A Judicial Path to Ensuring the Fair and Ethical Administration of Justice,” Court Review, Vol. 56 Issue 1 (2020).

Jennifer Prusak

Jennifer Prusak

Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Housing Law Clinic Director, Vanderbilt Law School

Jennifer Prusak, associate clinical professor of law and housing law clinic director, Vanderbilt Law School, directs Vanderbilt’s Housing Law Clinic, in which she and her students represent tenants facing eviction proceedings, advance Fair Housing Act claims on behalf of disabled clients, and advocate for affordable and accessible housing. Prusak previously directed the Nonprofit Legal Clinic at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, a transactional clinic which she created and managed for six years, and served as faculty supervisor of Maurer’s Tenant Assistance Project, through which law students met with and counseled pro se tenants immediately before and during their eviction hearings in Monroe County, Indiana. In 2011, she taught a Disability Law Clinic as a member of Maurer’s adjunct faculty.

Before joining the clinical law faculty at Maurer, Prusak was a staff attorney and an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at Indiana Legal Services, where she worked with local nonprofit agencies on projects aimed at preventing homelessness in southern Indiana and defended eviction actions brought against Section 8 tenants, public housing residents, and tenants renting from private landlords in Southern Indiana courts. Her work also included negotiating with public housing authorities and private landlords on behalf of tenants at risk of eviction, helping disabled clients advance Fair Housing Act disputes, and bringing actions against landlords for breaching warranty of habitability.

Prusak earned her law degree at the University of Michigan and then spent seven years in private litigation practice, focusing on disability and employment discrimination law, before joining Indiana Legal Aid. She joined Vanderbilt’s clinical faculty in summer 2020.

James J. Sandman

James J. Sandman

Distinguished Lecturer and Director of the Future of the Profession Lab at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation

Jim Sandman is distinguished lecturer and director of the future of the Profession Lab at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. He is president emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation, the United States’ largest funder of civil legal aid. Sandman was president of LSC from 2011 to 2020. Under his leadership, LSC expanded bipartisan support for federal funding of legal aid, promoted the use of technology to increase access to justice, expanded the use of data to improve the delivery of legal services, and created a new Pro Bono Initiative grant program.

Sandman practiced for 30 years with Arnold & Porter and was the firm’s managing partner for a decade. He has served as general counsel of the District of Columbia Public Schools and is a past president of the 110,000-member District of Columbia Bar.

Sandman is chair of the advisory board of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, vice chair of the District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Law Institute. He serves on the boards of the Pro Bono Institute and Albany Law School, among other organizations. He served as chair of the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Legal Issues Arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sandman has received the American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Bar Association’s Presidential Citation, and the District of Columbia Bar’s highest honor, the Justice William J. Brennan Award, among other awards. In 2008 Legal Times named him one of the 90 greatest Washington lawyers of the last 30 years.

He is a summa cum laude graduate of Boston College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif and was executive editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. He began his legal career as a law clerk to judge Max Rosenn of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Michele Statz

Michele Statz

University of Minnesota Medical School; Affiliated Faculty, University of Minnesota Law School

Michele Statz is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She is also affiliated faculty with the University of Minnesota Law School and an affiliated scholar with the American Bar Foundation. Statz is trained as an anthropologist of law and is a leading researcher in rural and Indigenous access to justice. Her work has appeared in Law & Society Review, Harvard Law & Policy Review, and the American Journal of Public Health, among others, and is generously funded by the National Science Foundation. Statz is the co-founder of the Law and Rurality Collaborative Research Network, and she is presently a member of the Federal-level Rural Justice Task Force and sits on the National Advisory Council for Frontline Justice.

Statz’s other ongoing work includes interdisciplinary and mixed-media projects on global youth and mobility; reproductive justice; working class identity; best interests and parental rights; and immigration lawyering. Her first book, Lawyering an Uncertain Cause: Immigration Advocacy and Chinese Youth in the U.S. (Vanderbilt U Press), was published in 2018. Statz holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and a graduate certificate in comparative law and society studies from the University of Washington.

Nicole Summers

Nicole Summers

Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown Law

Nicole Summers is an associate professor at Georgetown Law, where she teaches first-year Property and Housing Law and Policy. Her research focuses primarily on issues related to housing, including eviction, regulation of substandard conditions, and fair housing law. She also specializes in access to justice, and in 2021-22 was an American Bar Foundation/JPB Foundation access to justice faculty scholar. She is currently an affiliated scholar at the American Bar Foundation. Her scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in the Stanford Law Review, University of Chicago Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, North Carolina Review, and peer-reviewed journals including Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR). Her article “Civil Probation” was the winner of the 2023 AALS Scholarly Papers Competition for best work by a faculty member in their first five years of law teaching.

Before joining the faculty, Summers worked for many years in civil legal services as an eviction defense attorney. She did so as a clinical instructor and lecturer on law at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, as a staff attorney at The Bronx Defenders, and as a fellow at the Northeast Justice Center of Massachusetts. She was also previously a legal fellow at the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. From 2015-16, she served as a law clerk to the honorable chief justice Ralph D. Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Summers received a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Brown University; a master of arts in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University; and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Prior to attending graduate school, she was a Fulbright Scholar in Nicaragua.

Kaimi Wegner

Kaimi Wenger

Supervising Attorney, Eviction Prevention, Inner City Law Center, and Co-Director, Eviction Defense Clinic, Southwestern Law School

Kaimi Wenger is a supervising attorney at Inner City Law Center (CLC), a Los-Angeles based non-profit law firm that fights for housing and justice for low-income tenants, working-poor families, and unhoused individuals (including unhoused veterans). As a tenant defense attorney, Wegner has represented hundreds of low-income tenants in eviction cases. He is also the co-director of the Eviction Defense Clinic at Southwestern Law School (Los Angeles), where he teaches and supervises clinical students, many of whom have subsequently become eviction defense attorneys themselves.

Prior to working at ICLC, Wegner was a law professor and director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. He also taught as a visiting professor at University of San Diego and University of Nice, France. Wegner has published and presented frequently on civil rights topics. Prior to joining Thomas Jefferson in 2005, he clerked for Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York and practiced law with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLP, in New York City.

Sabiha Zainulbhai

Sabiha Zainulbhai

Senior Policy Analyst, Future of Land and Housing, New America

Sabiha Zainulbhai joined New America’s Future of Land and Housing program as a senior policy analyst in January 2021. Zainulbhai’s work at New America focuses on ensuring that housing and land use policy in the U.S. advances racial justice.

Prior to New America, Zainulbhai worked at the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing & Economic Development (CNHED) in Washington, D.C., where she conducted research and data analysis on local affordable housing and community development issues. Before CNHED, Zainulbhai was a principal research analyst at NORC @ the University of Chicago, where she conducted quantitative and qualitative research on small and large-scale health policy interventions.

Zainulbhai holds a master of public policy degree from the Gerald R. Ford School at the University of Michigan and a B.A. from the George Washington University.


Panel 1: The State of the Civil Legal Aid Crisis in Housing Cases

This panel provides an overview of the current crisis in housing courts around the country, from a variety of different perspectives, among legal services attorneys, local housing authorities, foundations, and tenants’ rights organizations.

Lunch with Keynote Address by Rasheedah Phillips

Renowned artist, author, community activist and lawyer Rasheedah Phillips will discuss the racial and gender inequities at the root of the housing crisis along with recent trends in the growing tenants’ rights, housing, and land use movements.

Panel 2: What Works, What Doesn't

This panel features conversation among leading academic researchers, housing law practitioners and tenant rights’ organizers on what works and what doesn’t, from the viewpoints of both empirical research and everyday practice.

Panel 3: Data Deserts and the Path to Evidence-Based Policy Change

This panel considers the work of several leading researchers on what the evidence suggests might help to address the crisis in housing courts.

Panel 4: Paths Forward

This panel provides an opportunity to hear from innovative thinkers on potential paths forward including public-private collaborations, technology-based solutions, more effective engagement with non-lawyer tenants’ rights advocates, and changes in court practices and rules.

A Conversation with Solomon Greene, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Moderated by Karen A. Lash, Senior Fellow, The Georgetown Justice Lab.

Presented by

The RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ), a part of the Justice Policy program, conducts research on all aspects of civil justice, from trends in litigation and jury verdicts to punitive damages, compensation systems, and alternative dispute resolution. Directly or indirectly, civil justice issues have an impact on us all.

The Civil Justice Research Initiative (CJRI) is a think tank chaired by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of Berkeley Law School and Founding Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law. CJRI’s mission is to systematically identify and produce highly credible, unbiased research on critical issues concerning the civil justice system, including expanding access to justice. Research focuses on the growing limits on access to the court system, including inadequate funding of state and federal courts; increased use of compulsory arbitration clauses; restrictions on class-action lawsuits; and limits on punitive damages. The Initiative also examines potential remedies to help level the judicial playing field for litigants. These efforts ensure that leaders, legislators and courts have the factual research and data they need to set policy to ensure continued access to the courts.

The Berkeley Judicial Institute (BJI)’s mission is to build bridges between judges and academics and to promote an ethical, resilient and independent judiciary.

This program is made possible by the generous support of the American Association for Justice Robert L. Habush Endowment.


For further information, contact