May 25, 2006
Chester Willcox & Saxbe undertakes pilot eviction project
With the help of twelve enthusiastic pro bono attorneys and a dedicated partner, the firm of Chester Willcox & Saxbe successfully undertook the pilot phase of the Pro Bono Tenants’ Advocacy Project.
The project, sponsored by The Legal Aid Society of Columbus and the Columbus Bar, pairs pro bono attorneys with low-income tenants facing eviction on the day of the hearing on the first cause of action. The pro bono attorneys can attempt to negotiate the case that day, or ask for a continuance for the following week to prepare the case further.
Under the supervision of Roderick Willcox, attorneys from Chester Willcox & Saxbe successfully advocated for the best interests of numerous clients. Jessica Shankle, Jim Abrams, Gage Gosnell, Todd Weber, Sarah Morrison, John Chester Jr., Joe Pickens, Tim Horton, Deborah Scott, Jennifer Otis, Todd Rodgers and W. Travis Garrison all provided pro bono services to tenants facing the eviction process.
Clients have been grateful for the opportunity to receive free legal assistance and are extremely thankful to the pro bono attorneys.
When Marion E. Hopson Jr. arrived at Municipal Court for his eviction hearing, he was facing not only back rent but also several hundred dollars in fees; Hopson figured he was going to lose his housing.
However, Hopson received free legal assistance from pro bono attorney Todd Weber. Weber was able to negotiate a reduction in fees owed by Hopson, as well as an extension to pay back rent in order to stay in his residence. Hopson was greatly appreciative of the work that Weber did on his behalf, and values the efforts of private attorneys to help those in need of assistance who cannot otherwise afford legal help.
As Hopson noted, if private attorneys had the choice to give one day a month to help those in need, there is “...no telling how many people you can help. One day could make a difference.”
Hopson’s attorney, Todd Weber, noted that like Hopson, many tenants at eviction court are overwhelmed by the system. The fact that the landlords and management companies are represented by counsel can be intimidating to tenants. Weber said that it was nice to be able to walk clients through the court process, educate them of their rights and, if possible, achieve a resolution of their dispute - most importantly, helping clients to stay in their homes.
“Many times, clients go down to court thinking they are going to be kicked out,” Weber said. “As long as their situation is not beyond repair, usually some sort of solution can be worked out.”
The effort of these pro bono attorneys during the March pilot project was supplemented by the expertise of volunteers from the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless, who provided on-site information about the benefit application process. We look forward to the continuing support of CCH as the Pro Bono Tenants’ Advocacy Project continues.
The Pro Bono Tenants’ Advocacy Project took a brief hiatus during the month of April to reassess procedural aspects of the project, as well as train new volunteers. The project began in its permanent phase on Wednesday, May 3 at 9:00 a.m. outside of courtroom 11A at Municipal Court. Jones Day has graciously agreed to provide pro bono attorneys to staff the project throughout the month of May. Individual attorneys will also be supporting the Pro Bono Tenants’ Advocacy Project during the month of May and beyond.
The Legal Aid Society of Columbus is currently looking for further commitments to the project to be able to staff the Pro Bono Tenants’ Advocacy Project on a permanent basis. Firms are asked to sign up for blocks of time, and individual attorneys are asked to sign up on a repeating basis. Training on basic-landlord tenant law is available through Legal Aid to prepare volunteer attorneys for participation in the project. This training is available as a free CLE and is available to be done in-house for sizeable groups.
Please contact Jill Wojtyna at 614/224.8374 x135 or email@example.com for additional details and information about the Pro Bono Tenants’ Advocacy Project.