By Hon. John C. Cratsley (Ret.)
Andrew Spore J.D. ’15, an alum of the Judicial Process in Community Courts Clinic and class, initially wrote his final paper on a proposal that certain vulnerable tenants facing eviction proceedings have a right to counsel. Often called “Civil Gideon”, the effort to expand the right to counsel for low income litigants from criminal proceedings to civil cases in which basic needs like housing are at stake is gaining momentum. One approach to expand the availability of counsel in contested civil trials is to select types of trials like evictions and create a statutory right of low income tenants to a free attorney.
And so, in Spring of 2014, following his clinical internship with a federal judge, Andrew Spore researched an existing project that provided attorneys for low income tenants in selected eviction situations; disability, alleged criminal conduct, and children. The success of that project led Andrew, in collaboration with the legal services programs behind the pilot and a subcommittee of the Boston Bar Association, to draft a statute that would allow a Housing Court judge to appoint counsel in these targeted eviction cases.
Andrew continued with the drafting process in the Fall of 2014 and Spring of 2015, eventually rewriting his paper and draft statute. With the help of various interested organizations, his drafting focused on three considerations; eligibility considerations, the delivery model, and sources of funding. Just before graduation, he produced 6 draft versions of “A Right to Counsel in Certain Eviction Cases”, reflecting different policy choices among the key considerations.
Remarkably, on January 16, 2015, Representative David Rogers along with 44 House and Senate co-sponsors, filed House Bill 1560, An Act establishing a right to counsel in certain eviction cases. The influence of Andrews’s work is obvious in the text of the proposed legislation.
This is the first time in memory that a student paper has become a pending bill in our State House.
“This collaborative process was unlike any other work I undertook while at Harvard Law School,” said Andrew. “Through it, I gained perspective on the systematic problems in the Massachusetts housing courts and the ongoing efforts to reform and improve those courts. Hopefully, the pending bill will only increase the momentum of this project and passage of the bill will be forthcoming.”