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LASP Legal Aid of Southeastern PA
Continued from page 13

By having attorneys negotiate
settlements and fight meritless
evictions, and by having financial
assistance to prevent a rising spiral
of late fees and court costs from
erasing any chance of paying
off the accrued rents, EPIC has
prevented approximately 150
individuals and families from
being evicted from their homes.
There has been an overwhelmingly
positive response from both
tenants and landlords due to
EPIC's conciliatory approach to
the issues.
The program begins after the
landlord-tenant complaint is filed
at the district court. Tenants are
informed by the hearing notice
to appear at least an hour before
their hearing, with their lease
and all documents relating to
the case. A Your Way Home staff
member meets with the tenants
to determine whether or not
financial assistance would be
beneficial, and if tenants qualify
for such services. Tenants who
fall below 50% of the weighted
average median income may be
assisted once every 12 months, for
up to $1,000 per individual, or $1,500 per household.
Pro bono and/or legal aid attorneys then meet with tenants
to determine the legal issues involved, including whether there
are counterclaims, meritorious defenses to the complaint, or
defects in the eviction process, such as failure to give notice.
Attorneys negotiate with the landlord or landlord's counsel to
achieve a settlement. If no settlement is feasible, the tenants will
have same-day representation for the hearing, and be able to
competently present their positions before the judge.
The initial impact report for 2017-18 was overwhelmingly
positive; 38 of 50 tenants and families had positive long-term
outcomes. Eighteen pro bono attorneys volunteered 195 hours,
a value of approximately $34,125 in free legal representation,
based on a conservative rate of $175 per hour. With Your Way
Home providing financial assistance, the Montgomery Bar
Association providing pro bono attorney referrals, and LASP
providing both training and ongoing legal assistance, the
program has continued to expand.


2020 Expansion of EPIC
Following EPIC's initial success,
Your Way Home, the Montgomery
Bar Association, and LASP have
worked to expand the reach of the
program to other magisterial district
courts. To this end, in January 2020,
Magisterial District Court Judge
Gregory Scott met with staff of Your
Way Home and LASP to explore
the program and the logistics of
integrating it within his Court.
Judge Scott was sworn in as
Magisterial District Court Judge
of the 38th Judicial District Dec.
21, 2015, at age 28. He became
both the youngest sitting judge
in Pennsylvania and the first
African-American District Judge
in Montgomery County. Having
presided over hundreds of eviction
hearings, Judge Scott expressed
an interest in learning more about
EPIC, with the goal of preventing
avoidable homelessness.
Pro bono attorneys and LASP
Staff Attorney Michelle Dempsky
work in tandem to provide
representation for tenants in both
Judge Hunsicker and Judge Scott's
courts. The first date of operation in Judge Scott's Court, Feb.
19, 2020, was a success for the tenants who participated. Longterm, the goal is to expand into other courtrooms that have a
significant number of eviction cases.
Partners involved in EPIC will continue their work to
repair relationships between landlords and tenants, offer legal
assistance on tenants' behalf, and offer financial incentives to
secure housing stability for affected low-income families within
the county. Given that evictions often lead to job loss and
poverty, EPIC is committed to combating this issue upstream,
and to reducing homelessness. EPIC looks forward to future
expansion into other courts.
Interested in volunteering with EPIC? Attorneys may
contact Michael E. Kelley, LASP Norristown Managing
Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator, at 610-275-5400 x125
or Non-attorneys should contact Becka
Hoover of Your Way Home at 610-970-5995 x109 or rhoover@

SIDEBAR Spring 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of SIDEBAR Spring 2020

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