Program Would Provide Low-Income Newark Residents With Counsel in Landlord Disputes

May 1, 2018

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Right to Counsel bill into law last year. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wants to mirror that initiative.
Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

  Mayor Baraka says nearly 78 percent of Newark residents are renters, and the most financially vulnerable of them would have no access to a lawyer, even for an illegal eviction.

“We’re going to start off immediately dealing with folks that are disabled, our seniors, and the undocumented immediately for the first year,” Baraka said.

Baraka is counting on the local non-profit and pro bono legal community to roll out the program. 

“McCarter & English and other law firms like that have said they are already interested in being a part of this.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed similar legislation into law last year.

“We started experimenting with the use of legal services and I talked with the Mayor about our journey," de Blasio said.  "It culminated this year with the Right to Counsel law.  In New York City the message is simple, if you are faced with an illegal conviction, you can get legal help.”

Baraka says there’s financial concerns when implementing such a program but there’s potential in sustaining it through outside sources if necessary.

“We think that we will be able to get it completely done anywhere between three and five years.”