These are trying times and I hope everyone and their loved ones are doing ok out there.
As you can imagine, and some of you may be experiencing, Housing Court cannot shut down in the midst of the crisis. Disputes between landlords and tenants continue and in many cases are exacerbated by the high anxiety brought on by this moment. The Court is having to adjudicate some of the most urgent emergency matters at this time through telephonic hearings, which would be challenging at any moment. Now, however, there is a great need for volunteer lawyers who can speak with litigants and guide them through the emergency hearing process.
To that end, we are trying to take our Volunteer Lawyer for the Day Programs virtual. Community Legal Aid and other members of the private bar have stepped up to provide representation for most tenants in these matters. So at this time, we are looking to get representation for landlords and any tenants that may not be eligible for CLA representation.
For anyone familiar with the Bar Advocate programs, we are attempting to set up a similar system. We are calling out for any volunteers who would be willing to sign up for a “duty day” for the next couple of months. Attorneys in any of the four Western Division counties are encouraged to participate. We are working out the logistics of how we will arrange the coverage for any given day and will provide more details once we know how many people are going to be participating in the virtual VLFD program. For now, be aware, emergency matters arise quickly and will often be put on for a hearing within a few hours, so it will be important for any volunteer on duty to be able to focus on the assigned cases as they arise. As we would only be asking for folks to take on one day a month, we hope any volunteer would be able to keep their calendar fairly clear that day and be ready to go when called. Depending on response to this invitation, we will try to have two volunteers per day, where possible.
This is a terrible public health emergency and it requires leadership from those of us who are able. It is also an incredibly dynamic moment in the law as Federal and State laws and rules of procedure are changing and adapting on a nearly daily basis. The skills of lawyers to quickly identify the important issues in a dispute and explain the application of law is crucial for both litigants and the Court during this time of emergency. I hope that all of you will join us in volunteering one day a month to assist at this time.
Be well and stay safe,
Darren M. Lee
Attorney│COURTNEY, LEE & HAMEL, P.C.
31 Wendell Avenue
Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01201
Telephone Number: (413) 443-4445
Facsimile Number: (413) 464-0738
Cell Number: (413) 204-4316