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New program seeks to pair more Lincoln renters with lawyers as city anticipates eviction increase
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New program seeks to pair more Lincoln renters with lawyers as city anticipates eviction increase

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A new program will help more Lincoln tenants facing eviction have free legal representation in court as advocacy organizations anticipate an increase in evictions next month, Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird announced Tuesday.

The Tenant Assistance Project will pair residents with volunteer attorneys, trained to provide limited representation in court, she said.

The project was developed by the University of Nebraska College of Law's Civil Clinic, the Volunteer Lawyers Project, Legal Aid of Nebraska, the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights and Nebraska Appleseed, the mayor said.

It comes as Gov. Pete Ricketts' executive order placing a moratorium on certain evictions is set to expire. 

During the pandemic, evictions have continued in Lancaster County Court. 

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Civil proceedings do not guarantee the right to an attorney, and while several organizations provide legal assistance to renters, many go through an eviction hearing without a lawyer, the mayor said. 

"A right to an attorney is a right to a fighting chance," Gaylor Baird said.

All attorneys participating will be covered by the project's malpractice insurance, receive training on legal defenses for a tenant and can shadow an attorney already practicing this kind of law, she said.

Tenants should continue to keep an open dialogue with their landlord if they're concerned they won't be able to pay rent, Gaylor Baird said. 

Community Action and Catholic Social Services continue to provide assistance to renters, along with other groups, the mayor said. 

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And landlords should continue to work with their tenants to provide reasonable payment plans, as many may not have received their federal stimulus checks or unemployment payments, she said. 

"It's incumbent on each of us to do what we can to ease everyone's burden during this difficult time and to stop the spread of the virus by keeping people safely housed during this pandemic," Gaylor Baird said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Local government reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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