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Legal program seeks to close 'justice gap' on housing

Legal program seeks to close 'justice gap' on housing

By Bob Dunn
The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD — Participants in Berkshire Housing Court now have access to legal advice and assistance from members of the Berkshire Bar Association through its new Lawyer for the Day program.

The program, which began with the Jan. 4 Housing Court session, will complement legal services already provided to low-income tenants and property owners provided by Community Legal Aid, said Gordon Shaw, its director of client access.

Shaw said the Lawyer for the Day will likely advise on cases brought by private tenants and their landlords, while Community Legal Aid attorney Paul Schack will continue primarily addressing issues concerning subsidized housing and tenancy.

"We don't have the resources to assist everybody that qualifies for legal help, so the call went out to the private bar and a big nod to Judge (Dina E). Fein who really initiated this to ask the bar to help close what we call the 'justice gap' by volunteering in court," Shaw said.

Following a training held in December, about 13 members of the Berkshire Bar Association have volunteered to each take a Housing Court session on a rotating basis.

Berkshire Bar Association treasurer Darren M. Lee is taking the first 2017 session of Housing Court, held each Wednesday in the Berkshire County Courthouse in Pittsfield.

Lee said housing law is complicated and Housing Court cases can move quickly. Without legal advice, many may not be aware of their rights.

A criminal case in District Court can take months to a year or more to be resolved, as opposed to Housing Court cases, which are normally wrapped up much more quickly.

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