New Eviction Diversion Initiative to help state courts nationwide
NCSC has launched the Eviction Diversion Initiative (EDI) to help state courts reform the way they handle eviction cases.
Court leaders have until Jan. 21 to apply for grants, which will be used to transform eviction courts into problem-solving courts that emphasize holistic, sustainable and community-driven solutions to housing problems.
This initiative comes at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the nation’s ongoing eviction crisis, removing millions of families from their homes, hampering stable employment and impacting children who switch schools and fall behind academically.
“I am truly excited about the opportunity this program presents to transform eviction courts into places that are focused on providing litigants with resources and resolutions,” said Samira Nazem, the NCSC consultant who’s overseeing EDI. “Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen countless ways courts have pivoted away from the old way of doing business. With the funding and resources available through EDI, we have an incredible opportunity to build on that work to make lasting changes.”
Courts that receive grants will hire staff to ensure that all stakeholders – tenant advocates, landlords, lawyers, community partners, housing officials and judges -- are part of the eviction diversion process. NCSC will advise court leaders, provide technical assistance and convene an annual conference for courts to share their experiences.
EDI programs could include on-site legal aid and mediation services, housing and financial counseling, screening for rental and financial assistance programs, assistance navigating the court process, and self-help resources for landlords and tenants. Courts also will be encouraged to make procedures more user-friendly and accessible for litigants.
An advisory council, made up mostly of state supreme court chief justices and state court administrators, will review grant applications and proposed budgets and select the award recipients. The grants -- $11.5 million in all – will span four years, with courts receiving smaller grant amounts in the second, third and fourth years as they work toward sustainability once the grant has ended.
Courts that receive EDI funding will be required to:
- Hire one or more facilitators to oversee work, support self-represented litigants, and cultivate community partnerships;
- Collect data about eviction cases and share it with NCSC and outside evaluators;
- Participate in training opportunities with peers at other EDI courts and attend annual in-person meetings;
- Submit quarterly grant reports and program updates to NCSC; and
- Create a plan to ensure the continuation of their eviction diversion programs after the grant period ends.
EDI is an extension of NCSC’s ongoing eviction diversion work, which provides resources to court employees, attorneys and the public, and it advises court leaders on what type of eviction diversion programs are best suited for their courts’ jurisdiction and structure.
Read more about EDI here.
Texas court clerk receives 2021 jury innovation award
Harris County (Texas) District Clerk Marilyn Burgess received the 2021 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation during a ceremony this month.
Named for the founder and former director of NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies, the award recognizes states, local courts, organizations and individuals that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations and practices.
Since her election in 2019, Burgess has implemented an in-house, e-juror summoning system, secured funding for juror benefits and launched a public education campaign to promote the importance of jury service.
Marilyn Burgess (left) with Center for Jury Studies Director Paula Hannaford-Agor during the award presentation in Houston on Dec. 2.