Forty-four law school deans across the country, including University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Dean and Bernard T. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger, have answered U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s call to the legal community to help “address the looming housing and evictions crisis” following the Supreme Court’s recent rejection of the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s reimposed eviction moratorium.
The law deans have issued a joint statement in support of Garland’s request, committing to “take immediate and meaningful action to combat this crisis.”
“Drawing on resources such as our pro bono programs, clinical offerings, and the service of our larger law school communities, we will help ensure that families and individuals facing eviction have the legal representation, counseling, and assistance they need to exercise their rights, that those entitled to the support of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program are able to access it, and that eviction proceedings are conducted in a fair and just manner,” the statement reads in part.
Early in the pandemic, the CDC issued a moratorium on evictions, which news sources estimate has allowed millions of people to remain in their homes. When the moratorium expired in July 2021, the CDC reimposed it. Many groups challenged the action, and, on August 26, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the moratorium, articulating that the CDC lacked the authority to issue it.
Garland’s letter to the legal community responded to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“The legal profession is well positioned to provide support for tenants, landlords, and courts during this crisis,” Garland wrote. “Promoting access to justice to ensure that our justice system delivers outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth or status, is one of the highest ideals of the legal profession.”
Lou Rulli, Practice Professor of Law and Director of the Civil Practice and Legislative Clinics, voiced his support for the Law School’s commitment to the Attorney General’s call.
“The Supreme Court’s recent decision has only accelerated the eviction crisis,” Rulli said. “Fortunately, in Philadelphia, court authority continues to require landlords to apply for rental assistance and participate in an eviction diversion program before an eviction complaint may be filed. This is in place until October 31, 2021 and is not affected by the decision on the CDC moratorium. However, lockouts are occurring now, and we are only at the tip of the iceberg. So, I think we all look forward to joining with the AG in committing our best efforts to addressing this crisis.”
In his letter, Garland likened his current call-to-action to the historic moment in the Civil Rights Movement, wherein then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy called upon members of the legal community “as part of their obligation to support equal justice under law, to use their knowledge and skills to advance the rights of those who were most vulnerable.” The result was the formation of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, of which Damon Hewitt L’00 is currently the President and Executive Director.
“Once again, the legal community has an obligation to help those who are most vulnerable,” the letter concludes. “We can do that by doing everything we can to ensure that people have a meaningful opportunity to stay in their homes and that eviction procedures are carried out in a fair and just manner.”