Nebraska Law program focused on tenant rights

· 3 min read

Nebraska Law program focused on tenant rights

Ryan Sullivan, associate professor of law, works with his students and clients in the Lancaster County Courthouse on April 13, 2022, as part of the tenant assistant project.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Ryan Sullivan (second from right), associate professor of law, works with his students and clients in the Lancaster County Courthouse on April 13, 2022, as part of the tenant assistant project.

The University of Nebraska College of Law is launching a program focused on advocating for the rights of tenants.

The Housing Justice Program is a collaborative legal effort intended to expand on and supplement the work of the Tenant Assistance Project. By partnering with other legal service providers and nonprofit organizations, the program aims to prevent homelessness while providing access to resources and services. The program includes the eviction prevention work of the Tenant Assistance Project, a Housing Justice Clinic, a Housing Justice Fellowship Program, and resource navigation and continuing non-legal support for struggling families.

“The Tenant Assistance Project has already made a difference for many families in Nebraska,” said Richard Moberly, dean of the College of Law. “I applaud the leadership efforts of Professor Ryan Sullivan in the creation of the Housing Justice Program. I am confident the program will continue to advance justice for renters across our state.”

Tenant Assistance Project

Since it began in 2020, the Tenant Assistance Project has helped more than 2,000 Nebraska families avoid immediate eviction while connecting them to more than $20 million in federal rental assistance — funds that can be used to pay money owed to landlords.

A primary function of the Housing Justice Program is to support the Tenant Assistance Project at the Lancaster County Courthouse. Clinic students will provide direct representation of tenants at their eviction hearing, and volunteer law students will create eviction defense packets and support outreach efforts, including ensuring that families facing eviction are aware of their hearing date and the resources available to them. Families in need will also be connected to the program’s resource navigator, who will be available at the courthouse each day eviction hearings are held.

Housing Justice Clinic

The clinic will be the sixth legal clinic at Nebraska Law to offer hands-on training to students. Alongside volunteer attorneys, senior-certified law students will represent tenants during eviction hearings. Students will make court appearances on a regular basis and will focus their work on eviction defense, tenants’ rights, and improving housing conditions for Nebraska renters.

“Our students have shown a tremendous interest in providing access to representation for tenants,” said Sullivan, director of the Housing Justice Program and Clinic. “The Housing Justice Clinic allows students to spend time during their third year supporting tenants’ rights, and also gives them the opportunity to practice their oral argument and litigation skills.”

Housing Justice Fellowship Program

Housing Justice Fellows will maintain a consistent presence at the Lancaster County courthouse every day eviction hearings are held, support volunteer and student attorneys, and provide representation to clients. Fellows will also train, mentor and supervise law students in their provision of legal services to families facing eviction or who are struggling with other housing-related legal matters. Alan Dugger and Rachel Tomlinson Dick are Nebraska’s inaugural Housing Justice Fellows.

The Housing Justice Program is anticipated to have 30 to 40 student participants each semester, whether through pro bono opportunities or enrollment in the Housing Justice Clinic.

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