The Rhode Island District Court will begin a volunteer lawyer program to assist the court in the adjudication of tenancy and eviction cases. The program’s goal is to provide tenants facing eviction with legal advice at the courthouse in negotiating payment plans, move-out dates and other tenancy matters just prior to their District Court hearings in what is anticipated to be a surge in cases in early September as certain pandemic-related benefits and assistance expire.
“While many landlords have an attorney, the vast majority of tenants facing eviction are not represented by a lawyer, which was true even before the pandemic,” Chief Judge Jeanne E. LaFazia said.
The volunteer lawyers will serve as “friends of the court” to advise tenants of their rights, describe the process and provide free advice just before their hearings begin. Under the format, the volunteer lawyers will be able to assist numerous tenants during a half-day shift at the courthouse.
The volunteer lawyers will receive training in landlord/tenant processes and will earn mandatory continuing legal education credits, which are required annually of all active attorneys.
Lawyers interested in volunteering for this program should contact the judicial officer assigned to the tenancy and eviction calendars in the respective counties. For more information, visit courts.ri.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
— Sun staff