One of the most powerful systems in democracy is our judicial system that upholds the rule of law. Many people navigate within that system successfully – attorneys, judges, and people with the mental and financial means to approach it with confidence.
In my experience, the people who avoid the judicial system are those who have been harmed by it, those who cannot afford it, and those who fear its repercussions. Data backs that up. A 2015 Access to Justice study by the Washington State Supreme Court showed that civil legal problems are experienced to greater degrees by low-income persons of color, victims of domestic violence, gender discrimination or sexual assault, persons with disabilities, and youth.
As the Director and as a mediator, I see inequity in the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program design every day. When the legislature funded “Right to Counsel” for cases filed in court, the goal was to offer legal representation at the time of litigation and intended to make the process speedier. Landlords and tenants can go to court to resolve their differences in front of a judge.
Yet, for many people going to court is scary and complex. By design, the court process restricts topics for discussion, is adversarial, and is so formal most people need legal representation.
We have seen tenants leave their homes rather than facing their fear of going to court. Some landlords are selling off their properties, ending their dreams of establishing generational wealth because of the fear and cost of going to court.
There is a way to keep these people in their homes with a plan to make landlords whole. Mediation.
Mediation resolves 85% of issues without going to court. It is a crucial element of equitable access to justice.
In the case of eviction resolution, tenants and landlords need legal and financial counsel during the mediation process. That counsel will ground them in their rights and responsibilities, which will enable better dialog and, ideally, resolution that reduces harm to both.
As supporters of dialog and resolution, please join us in asking the legislature to keep mediation as part of the eviction resolution process and fund financial and legal counseling prior to filing in court. The result will make the process more trauma-informed, more equitable, and more efficient.
Read the full Winter 2022 Resolution Newsletter