Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the McCarter & English Launch Pro Bono Fellowship to Provide Legal Representation to Newark Residents Facing Evictions
On July 17, 2018, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the McCarter & English law firm announced the launch of an initiative that will see the law firm provide pro bono legal representation to Newark tenants facing eviction proceedings by their landlords.
Full-time legal fellow will represent under-served Newark residents in defense against eviction. The program will expand to additional services, education, and policy advocacy
The pro bono fellowship will commence in the early fall and will focus initially on representing tenants facing eviction.
The fellow will expand McCarter’s pro bono services to low-income tenants and collaborate with community service organizations, the mayor’s office and universities – among others – to educate tenants about their rights and influence public opinion by speaking and writing on the societal and legal aspects of eviction.
The fellow may also engage in other forms of policy advocacy.
“McCarter & English has been an important partner in our work to build a stronger, more equitable city. We are very grateful that the firm is teaming with us to protect the rights of some of Newark’s most at-risk residents, tenants waging unequal battles against landlords unjustly seeking evictions. These residents desperately need the seasoned talented and compassionate representation that McCarter & English will provide. I thank McCarter & English for creating this fellowship involving significant social justice issues affecting Newark and thank them for supporting our city and its residents in so many ways over the years,” Mayor Baraka said.
“We will start out concentrating on the unmet legal needs of tenants, but we’re going to be flexible. If it becomes clear in the future that the city’s residents need our support in another area, the fellowship program will adapt accordingly,” said Michelle Movahed, the firm’s pro bono director.
Noting the staggering number of tenants facing eviction without legal representation, Ms. Movahed said: “We believe that our focus on the rights of tenants can make a real difference for Newark families. Landlords file tens of thousands of eviction proceedings against tenants in Newark and surrounding communities every year. Only a tiny fraction of those tenants have legal representation, and we intend to change that.
Mr. Robert Mintz, Managing Partners of the Newark office noted that McCarter’s deep roots in Newark made the fellowship a logical extension of its already vibrant pro bono practice.
“In our conversations with Mayor Baraka and his team, we all agreed that everyone would benefit if we could step up our service to the city,” Mr. Mintz said. “We were looking for an issue where we could make a real difference in the lives of families in the city. The mayor asked if the firm would be willing to take on this issue and we jumped at the opportunity. While we are certainly not anti-landlord – we represent a number of commercial landlords – we do want to support Newark and its residents.”