Jasmin Hurley

Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter

“Access for all people, regardless of income, to representation is vital to the rule of law.”

Every weekday morning at Franklin County Municipal Court, 50-200 eviction cases are scheduled. The tenants who attend their hearings arrive, many times after walking from the bus stop or parking a borrowed car at a meter they pray won’t run out, sometimes with children in tow, and always with fear of what will happen to them and their families.

Since March 2017, LASC and more than 130 volunteer lawyers have staffed the Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP)—a program made possible initially through grants from The Columbus Foundation, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, and PNC Bank—intended to alleviate that fear by providing sound legal advice and representation to tenants facing loss of their homes.

Today, we recognize Jasmin Hurley of Kegler, Brown, Hill + Ritter, an active TAP volunteer who has lived her life in service to her community and country.

After graduating from West Point in 2005, Jasmin served in the Active Duty Army for 5 ½ years as Military Police Officer and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She eventually transitioned into corporate work, earning her JD from the University of Dayton School of Law and a Masters of Arts in Business and Organizational Security Management from Webster University.

On the surface, Jasmin’s Intellectual Property and Emerging Business practice didn’t naturally connect with tenant advocacy, but her volunteer work on Operation Legal Help Ohio’s eviction cases and Kegler Brown’s participation as a TAP Firm Leader drew her to the project.

As a second-year associate and transactional attorney, Jasmin isn’t regularly inside a courtroom, but TAP volunteering offers her that opportunity, while also developing skills in building client relationships and negotiation.  She feels proud being able to provide something of value to a client at his or her time of need and sees firsthand the difference TAP can make: “Most of the clients will remark that they knew they should get an attorney involved, or at least consult with one, but refrained from doing so due to costs.” In the past year, Jasmin has attended 12 TAP clinics, and she finds the commitment manageable: “I really enjoy the fact that our firm has set days every month on which we volunteer, as it allows me to be able to plan and manage my workload. It is all in what I prioritize during my time management.”

Access to TAP is not guaranteed, and resources are limited. Tenants defending evictions in Franklin County—and virtually everywhere else except New York City—do not have a right to an attorney. In 2012, California passed the Shriver Civil Counsel Act, which designated millions of dollars to support legal aid lawyers representing low-income litigants in cases, including evictions. After five years of data collection, the study found that rather than increasing the burden on courts through what was anticipated to be multiplying the number of contested trials, Shriver-assisted eviction cases were far more likely to end in settlement, and the vast majority of negotiated settlements reduced back-owed rent or helped protect tenants’ credit by keeping eviction notices off the public record. Notably, only 6% of “Shriver clients” were ultimately evicted from their homes. (Full report here)

The Tenant Advocacy Project cannot represent every tenant who seek its help. Some people with weaker or no defenses receive only advice, and others are turned away on mornings when there are no volunteer lawyers signed up and staff attorneys have reached their capacity. But the impact of TAP and volunteers like Jasmin is profound. In nine months of operation in 2017, TAP assisted nearly 800 tenants, avoiding 270 eviction judgments, preventing any displacement for 65 families, providing useful advice for 135 people, and increasing time before move-outs in 200 cases.

In the trenches of eviction court, Jasmin leaves her volunteer clinics feeling good about what she did that day and “simply knowing that I was able to put a person or family in a better position than when they started the day. I feel it the most when there are children involved and I can negotiate something that allows the family time to either stay or move out but keeps the children from being homeless.” Her work has not gone unnoticed. Jyoshu Tsushima, LASC staff attorney for TAP, describes her as a “relentless advocate for our clients. Even when dealing with notoriously difficult landlords or opposing counsel, she always keeps the best interests of our clients at the center of negotiations and litigation.”

In addition to highlighting her commitment to service, Jasmin’s TAP experience shows that you don’t have to be a litigator or a property lawyer to provide meaningful help. Through training and staff mentoring, volunteer lawyers from all practice areas achieve real outcomes for tenants.

TAP still hasn’t reached its target of 100% volunteer staffing at all clinics, and we need your help to reach this goal. Please consider stepping up and joining Jasmin in striving to bring equal access to justice for all. Simply click here to start!

 

Translate »