Most people know that everyone who is charged with a criminal offense is entitled to representation by legal counsel – regardless of their ability to pay. But what about civil court, especially Landlord-Tenant matters? How is it that, in something as fundamentally important as a place to live, tenants are not guaranteed that same Right to Counsel, as a right, regardless of ability to pay? Anyone who’s ever witnessed the operation of local Landlord/Tenant Courts knows that virtually every landlord is represented by an attorney while hardly any tenant is so represented.  This results in a huge, and at times insurmountable, imbalance of power.

There is a movement throughout the country that is attempting to remedy this manifestly unfair dynamic – The Right to Counsel Campaign. Many jurisdictions – cities, counties and states are
passing ordinances guaranteeing income-eligible tenants the right to be represented by counsel throughout the eviction process. This would begin to level the playing field in local Landlord-Tenant Courts.

Here in Westchester, Mt. Vernon United Tenants (MVUT), Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) and a number of other not-for profit organizations that are working to fight evictions and prevent homelessness have created the Westchester County Right to Counsel Coalition (R2C) .

We’re enclosing a few pieces from the R2C Coalition:

  • “Stop evictions – Prevent Homelessness, sup port Right to Counsel” – Key points to consider (see PDF)
  •  Suggested letter to Westchester County Board of Leqislators (W-BOL) (see PDF)
  • List of county Legislators* with contact information (see PDF)

*Note: On the list of County Legislators, you’ll notice that District 13 is blank – that is Mt. Vernon, and it is empty as our long-time county Legislator Lyndon Williams recently resigned to become a Mt. Vernon City Court Judge. Lyndon’s seat will most likely be taken by Tyrae Woodsan, a legislative aide for Congressman Etiot Engel. It appears that Tyrae will be running unopposed. However, we do not at this time have any contact information on him. That will have to wait until after Election buy on November 3’o. We’ll provide that information to our members and friends as it becomes available.

For those of you who are not Mt. Vernon residents, please use the suggested letter and mail it to your respective county Legislators today. For Mt. Vernonites, you’ll have to wait till sometime in November. However, EVERYONE SHOULD WRITE THE LETTER!

Additionally, we’ll be scheduling an action in White Plains late in October when we’ll want as many people to come as possible.  We’ll have specific information in an upcoming mailing and you can call the office as well.  If you belong to a church or other organization that you believe would support the goal of “Right to Counsel’,, have them contact us and become part of the coalition!  We’d encourage them to come to the action in White Plains as well.

Support Tenant Rights!
Support MVUT!!

Download Right To Counsel Mailing PDF

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