Let’s Talk Housing Program Addresses COVID-19 Related Evictions

August 14, 2020

The Oklahoma Bar Association calls on Oklahoma lawyers to help keep families from becoming homeless by serving as mediators in eviction claims. The request for volunteers to help both tenants and landlords comes as the eviction crisis is inundating the court system and even as the federal government released a new moratorium to bar evictions on September 1.

In partnership with the Oklahoma Supreme Court Early Settlement Program and the Access to Justice Commission, OBA is offering free mediation training, including 6.5 hours of Continuing Legal Education, to equip more attorneys to be involved in the state’s Early Settlement Mediation program.

“In times of strife, people often turn to the courts to find answers.”

Oklahoma Supreme court chief justice noma gurich
Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Noma Gurich.

OBA’s “Let’s Talk Housing” program is a collaboration that has allowed non-profit organizations focusing on the housing crisis, the OBA and the Oklahoma Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and Early Settlement Program to respond to the ongoing economic consequences of the pandemic that are now reaching the courts.

“I appreciate the leadership by the President, the Board and the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association in coordinating with lawyers all over the state to assist the public in dealing with the very serious issue of evictions,” said Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Noma Gurich. “Our district judges are adaptable, resilient and resourceful. In times of strife, people often turn to the courts to find answers. Together with the assistance from Oklahoma lawyers, the judicial system will remain strong and accessible so that the best interests of the public are served.”

“Lawyers are looking for opportunities to help in this time of crisis.”

OBA President susan shields

As the thirty day mark approaches past the July 25 expiration on the federal moratorium that stalled evictions, OBA President Susan Shields asks Oklahoma attorneys to volunteer to assist in the Early Settlement program in an effort find solutions short of evictions and civil trials by getting the necessary training to serve as mediators.

OBA President Susan Shields.

“Our goal is for Oklahoma attorneys across our state to get training in the Early Settlement Mediation program so we can apply our expertise to help in this emergency. Mediation has proven to be an effective and lower cost tool to help settle disputes between landlords who rely on rental income and tenants who might face homelessness in this unprecedented time that finds many unemployed and unable to take care of basic expenses.”

“Lawyers are looking for opportunities to help in this time of crisis and the Let’s Talk Housing program is an important way to give back to people in our communities that are hurting and to help relieve the stress on the court system,” said Shields who plans to be among the first OBA members to take the course.

For additional information on becoming a volunteer mediator for the Early Settlement program, email marissa.fairbanks@oscn.net.

For more resources for legal help for both tenants and landlords, visit the Free Legal Information portion of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s website that includes videos and brochures on topics that include rights and duties as tenants, rights as landlords and other information.

RESOURCE: one-page flyer to share with the public about mediation help across the state.