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

Register online by June 10, 2023.

Register Now

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.

Please register online by June 10, 2023.


James M. Anderson Director, Justice Policy Program; Director, RAND Institute for Civil Justice; Senior Behavioral Scientist

Emily Benfer, Visiting Professor of Clinical Law; Director of the Health Equity Policy & Advocacy Clinic, George Washington School of Law

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

Detrese Dowridge, Organizer, Baltimore Renters United

Paul Heaton, Adjunct Economist, RAND Corporation; Professor and Academic Director, Quattrone Center, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

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

Karen Lash, Senior Fellow, Georgetown Justice Lab

Matthew McNicholas, Partner, McNicholas & McNicholas LLP

John Pollock, Coordinator, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel

James 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

Michele Statz, Ph.D., University of Minnesota Medical School, University of Minnesota Law School

Nicole Summers, Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown Law

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


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.

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.

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