COVID shows why we need legal aid for civil cases like evictions: Rep. Joe Kennedy

Right to counsel should be guaranteed in non-criminal cases involving basic human needs like food, shelter, employment, health care and physical safety.

In the throes of the Great Recession a decade ago, I stood in a cramped courtroom at Boston Housing Court next to my client, a single mom of two from Dorchester, Massachusetts. For the second time in a year, she was being kicked out of her home because the homeowner she was renting from fell behind on the mortgage payments.

She couldn’t bear the thought of uprooting her kids again in the middle of the school year. So she stayed, despite the eviction notice. Then the loan servicer illegally changed the locks while she was at the grocery store. The fire department had to come break down the door. One of her sons had a nervous breakdown at school the next day.

Now, she was in court. Though she had done nothing wrong. Though she worked hard and paid her rent. Here she was, about to lose the roof over her head…. Read more in USA Today.