Garland meets with state Supreme Court justices on eviction freeze

Officials in the Biden administration, fearing a new freeze on evictions could be overturned by a federal court – and rushing to avert a...


Officials in the Biden administration, fearing a new freeze on evictions could be overturned by a federal court – and rushing to avert a national crisis – are increasingly looking to state courts to help deliver billions federal housing assistance.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland held a virtual meeting with 35 state Supreme Court justices on Wednesday to encourage them to use all the tools at their disposal to avoid or delay evictions by ensuring that owners and tenants have access to an allocated $ 47 billion fund. by Congress.

According to the Treasury Department, which oversees the program, only about $ 3 billion of that money, or about 7%, had been allocated as of June 30.

“State courts are at the forefront of this crisis,” said Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who has overseen the department’s eviction efforts.

The effort to pay off rents accrued during the pandemic has been hampered by resistance from some landlords, who would rather evict non-paying tenants than wait for federal payments, and slow efforts by states to create an infrastructure to distribute the largest housing finance allowance in generations.

White House officials cited the need to buy more time for the aid program, as well as public health concerns stemming from the Delta variant of the coronavirus, when writing the new moratorium after the old expires on July 31.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Garland cited several state initiatives as role models for communities, including an order from the Michigan State Supreme Court requiring courts to stay eviction proceedings. up to 45 days to allow tenants to complete rental assistance applications, according to the judge. Department officials.

Mr Garland also praised a directive from the Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court that amended notices sent to tenants sued for eviction to ensure they are aware of the benefits.

The state’s judicial training center has also created instructions for local justices of the peace to divert homeowners to the federal aid program where possible. The move, coupled with a joint federal-state effort to streamline application forms, is already paying off, Chief Justice Nathan Hecht said.

“I have been on the bench for 40 years, and to tell the truth, judges have historically not seen these kinds of programs as having anything to do with them, but that is changing,” said Chief Justice Hecht in an interview.

“The key to all of this is that the application process has to be easy, it has to be straightforward,” he added. “Landlords are frustrated and tenants face the street, and overall it’s a very tense time. So we can’t tell people it will take six weeks to get your money.

In addition to pressuring Mr Garland to help speed up checks, judges have asked federal officials to prioritize the role of justice in all aid programs – to make it easier for state courts to tap into in relief money to hire landlord-tenant mediators and navigators to help tenants who cannot afford a lawyer to understand their rights in court.

“There are a lot of loopholes right now,” Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush said. “All this funding goes to the executive branch, although the judiciary, the state courts, play a vital role. This is something that is ignored at the federal level.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Garland meets with state Supreme Court justices on eviction freeze
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