Georgia State Law’s Center for Access to Justice received a $24,000 Opportunity Grant from the American Bar Endowment (ABE) to support a pilot study on individuals’ experiences and interactions with dispossessory courts, which handle eviction proceedings. Out of 94 proposals, the center’s was one of 12 the endowment selected through the Opportunity Grant Program for 2018.
“There has been little research relating to evictions conducted in the South, and even less outside of urban areas. As a result, we have very little insight into whether and how the process differs in more rural parts of the state,” said Lauren Sudeall Lucas, Center for Access to Justice founding faculty director, associate professor of law and one of the study’s principal investigators. “We’re excited to be embarking on such a unique project to address a critical knowledge gap and explore how lower-income individuals interact with and experience housing court in semi-rural Georgia.”
Established by the American Bar Association in 1942, the American Bar Endowment, an independent 501(c)(3) public charity, helps generate funding to support legal research, educational and public service projects that “advance the American justice system and rule of law.” The ABE introduced Opportunity Grants in 2017 to support projects addressing issues of critical importance to the public and the legal profession. The majority of funded programs focus on improving access to legal services among underserved populations.
“The Center for Access to Justice supports those working to ensure meaningful access to the courts, and this research project aligns perfectly with that mission,” said Darcy Meals, assistant director of the Center for Access to Justice. “Engaging in this research will help us extend our reach beyond the metro Atlanta community and contribute to our larger vision of becoming a regional hub for access-to-justice research and education.”
According to Lucas, there are no reliable figures on a statewide level for how many people are evicted, where they are evicted, the underlying causes of those evictions, and, consequently, no comprehensive sense of what happens when individuals, families and communities face legal proceedings and subsequent eviction.
“This project is an important step toward identifying and articulating potential geographic differences across the greater Atlanta metropolitan area and possibly statewide. These differences will become increasingly important as low-income individuals are priced out of more urban areas,” Lucas said. “Our hope is that this pilot study will lead to a more comprehensive study that will compare eviction-related data across urban, suburban and rural jurisdictions.”
The project, set to begin in the summer, will be in partnership with the Georgia Legal Services Program and Georgia State Department of Sociology assistant professor Daniel Pasciuti will serve as principal investigator with Lucas.