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NCJ Number: 194269 Find in a Library
Title: Impact of Legal Counsel in Outcomes for Poor Tenants in New York City's Housing Court: Results of a Randomized Experiment
Journal: Law & Society Review  Volume:35  Issue:2  Dated:2001  Pages:419-434
Author(s): Martin Frankel; Carroll Seron; Gregg Van Ryzin; Jean Frankel
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 16
Type: Program/Project Evaluation
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article presents the methodology and results of the first randomized experimental evaluation of a legal assistance program for low-income tenants in New York City's Housing Court.
Abstract: The goal of the project was to enlist the services of volunteer (pro bono) attorneys, many from the largest law firms in the city, to represent low-income tenants in Housing Court. A related goal of the program was to focus on cases that could lead to eviction and whose outcome could be significantly affected by legal representation. An independent evaluation was requested as a condition of funding. The evaluation examined whether the provision of legal counsel impacted outcomes for low-income tenants in Housing Court and whether such provision of legal counsel lengthened the average time required by the Housing Court to dispose of a case. The evaluation was designed as a randomized experiment that involved a treatment group of legal-aid tenants that was targeted to receive legal counsel through the Pro Bono Project and a control group that was not. Participants in the experiment were recruited from among tenants who were responding to nonpayment of rent petitions and waiting in line at the Clerk's Office of Manhattan Housing Court. Recruitment began on September 13, 1993, and continued through June 27, 1994. There were 134 subjects in the "treatment" group (75 represented and 59 unrepresented) and 134 in the control group (5 represented and 129 unrepresented). The evaluation findings showed that the provision of legal counsel produced significant differences in outcomes for low-income tenants in Housing Court, independent of the merits of the case; for example, only 22 percent of represented tenants had final judgments against them, compared with 51 percent of tenants without legal representation. Similarly, large advantages for tenants with an attorney also were found in eviction orders and stipulations that required the landlord to provide rent abatements or repairs. In addition, the results suggest that a program of legal assistance for low-income tenants would not increase significantly the number of appearances in court, although it would increase the number of days to final judgment. The program may enhance the efficiency of adjudication by reducing the number of motions filed, particularly post-judgment motions. Limitations and policy implications of the study are discussed. 5 tables, 23 references, and appended criteria for allocation of cases into one of three tracks
Main Term(s): Court procedures
Index Term(s): Court of limited jurisdiction; Dispositions; Landlord-tenant courts; Legal aid services; New York; Volunteer programs
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