City officials, in conjunction with the Dutchess County Bar Association, began a program Wednesday aimed at helping residents facing eviction or other landlord-tenant litigation in City Court.
The Common Council last December added to the Mayor’s 2023 budget proposal funding to support the establishment of the program, which places an attorney on site at the court each Wednesday that the court hears cases on its Housing Calendar. The licensed attorney will be available to counsel defendants on a limited basis by providing general information about their rights, paths toward potential resolution and referrals to partner agencies which may be of assistance. The new city program is funded by American Rescue Plan Act funds and will run for approximately two years, or until the $150,000 appropriation is exhausted.
Council Vice Chair Nathan Shook (4th Ward), an attorney himself, advocated for the program’s creation. Shook said, “Often those facing eviction cannot afford to retain counsel. The potential loss of one’s home and the risk of homelessness is one of life’s greatest stressors and contributes to a cascade of other ill effects, particularly on affected children. This program will offer meaningful and streamlined help to those in need, when and where they need it the most, just outside the courtroom.”
Council Chairwoman Natasha Brown said, “This is another example of collaboration between city government and our external partners. It is also precision-based aid to members of our community where outcomes will be known and can be measured. My colleagues on the Council and I have also formed a Housing Committee which is charged with recommending actions we as a local government can take legally to mitigate the rising risk of homelessness in our community.”
Mayor Marc Nelson said: “Our legal system cannot truly be fair, when one side is represented by skilled, trained and licensed attorneys, and another side is not. I look forward to seeing the results of this initiative, so that future requests to fund its continuation can be made based on real data and real outcomes.”
Dan Miller, an attorney provided through the Dutchess County Bar Association, and Common Council member Nathan Shook and Mayor Marc Nelson outside City Court.