Helping Temple students understand their rights as tenants

In this week’s Temple News, journalism student Alayna Hutchinson reports on a plan by students in our Social Justice Lawyering Clinic to provide better information to Temple students — especially undergraduates — about their rights as tenants in off-campus housing. Casey Dwyer and Anna Manu Fineanganofo, 2Ls, developed the plan in consultation with the Office of the Dean of Students, the Cherry Pantry, and the Law School’s student-organized Housing Justice Initiative. Law students participating in the program would offer legal information to students with questions about their leases or rental conditions; if legal advice or representation were needed, a student could be referred to one of Philly’s legal services organizations.

We’re grateful to Temple News reporter Alayna Hutchinson for digging into the important issue — well documented by Temple’s own Hope Center — of how to get more legal help to students with problems involving basic needs.

Taking our work on the road

four people sitting and standing at a conference table

“An unrepresented person walks into a courthouse” might sound like the beginning of a joke, but in real life it’s a recipe for intimidation, confusion and stress. That’s where court-based help centers can make a difference, according to a report produced by students in our Access to Justice Clinic (“Justice for All: The Current Success of Self-Help Centers in Pennsylvania Courts and Recommendations for Growth)”. So we were excited to be invited, this month, to present our findings to the Pennsylvania Association of Court Management, PA’s organization of court professionals, at their Pittsburgh meeting.

As the report explains, self-help centers offer a comfortable environment where litigants can get assistance in understanding court procedures, filling out forms, and navigating other mystifying aspects of the judicial process. The centers benefit not only the public, but also judges and court staff, whose work becomes easier when people are able to follow the rules for being heard. And PA has some successful centers — though there are also still many counties that do not have them. (By contrast, some states have help centers in most or all of their courthouses.)

Cathy Ginder, L ’25, one of the authors of our report (at the right in the photo), planned the Pittsburgh session, invited the presenters, and moderated the discussion. Megan Dietz and Yorleny Remigio, stars of the York County Court Self-Help and Law Resource Center, explained how their center was created and why litigants and judges so strongly support it. Aubrie Souza, Court Management Consultant for the National Center for State Courts, generously traveled from Boston to add a national perspective and to offer her organization’s assistance to PA courts. (NCSC recently released its own report on self-help centers around the country.)

We hope our presentation will lead more PA counties to consider creating help centers. And we’re pleased that our clinic now has a connection to PACM, which is on the front lines of making justice more accessible to Pennsylvanians.