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NYS Bar Association creates working group to deal with expected surge in landlord-tenant cases

May 13, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The New York State Bar Association announced on Monday that it has created a landlord-tenant working group that it hopes will help deal with the expected rush to file cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The governor’s swift action to put evictions on hold kept New Yorkers safe when they needed refuge during shelter-in-place orders,” said NYSBA President Hank Greenberg. “When the moratorium lifts, the courts will be burdened by an unprecedented number of landlord-tenant disputes. Likewise, the demand for legal services by those who cannot afford an attorney will skyrocket. We must therefore plan for that eventuality and recommend steps that can be taken to ensure due process for all concerned.”

The statewide moratorium on evictions is in effect until Aug. 20, and the working group hopes to encourage alternative ways to settle disputes between landlords and tenants in the meantime.

In particular, the group is looking to help sick and financially struggling tenants through alternative dispute resolution options. They expect that settling as often as possible would also help landlords who need income to keep their buildings in good repair.

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Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is overseeing the NYSBA’s pro bono network that was created to deal with legal issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group will work with the landlord-tenant working group to help settle disputes outside of court. Photo: Rob Abruzzese/Brooklyn Eagle

The NYSBA will enlist the help of its newly created pro bono network to help with the effort. That network has already been working with people on jobless claims.

“I am delighted to see the number of lawyers who have stepped forward to help unemployed New Yorkers appeal denied claims,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said. “But it’s also crucial that we keep New Yorkers in their homes when the pandemic subsides. The involvement of pro bono attorneys will help our housing courts when they resume normal operations and assist those who perhaps cannot otherwise afford representation.”

The working group will include Hon. Anthony Cannataro, the citywide administrative judge for the Civil Court; and Dominick Napoletano, the NYSBA treasurer and past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association.

It will also include Ross Gilmore, Beth Goldman, Seymour James, Kenneth Kanfer, Mark Moretti, Jason Polevoy, Phil Rosen, Andrew Scherer and Sara Wagner.

“This esteemed group of lawyers has vowed to work quickly and diligently to resolve what will be a vexing problem if immediate action isn’t taken,” said former NYS Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. “Their goal is to come up with innovative solutions that address the needs of both landlords and tenants, and I am confident that they will be able to do so.”

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