Equal Justice Works has selected John Gainey (J.D. ’17) to serve as a legal fellow for the Georgia Housing Corps (GHC), a new fellowship program sponsored by the Georgia Bar Foundation, which addresses barriers to housing stability in Georgia’s rural and urban communities.
Gainey joins 10 other fellows and seven community advocates to provide a combination of services at select nonprofit legal organizations, including client representation, advocacy, community outreach and education.
“We are thrilled that the Georgia Housing Corps will help ensure that underserved families have the safe, stable housing they need to live and thrive in their communities,” said David Stern, executive director at Equal Justice Works. “Housing plays a critical role in the health and well-being of families and its importance cannot be overstated.”
Gainey attended Georgia State Law to gain knowledge and a skillset that could make a genuine difference in people’s lives. He will work with the Cobb Legal Aid’s Eviction Clinic, which provides information about the eviction process, the eviction court procedural process and free consultation and representation to low-income tenants.
“I decided to become a fellow because I worked with Atlanta Legal Aid Society as a law student. While there, I discovered my potential to make real and meaningful change in communities and in the lives of my clients’ families by representing people that could not otherwise acquire legal services,” Gainey said. “A law degree gives us such a capacity to help others and impact society. As advocates, we have a duty to reduce barriers to equal justice and respond to needs other than our own. I want to make sure I play my part in that.”
As a fellow, Gainey will represent clients facing eviction in magistrate court, negotiate with landlords, raise tenants’ awareness of their legal rights and expand the services offered by the clinic.
“The structural disparities between tenants and their landlords are vast, and their unequal bargaining power is most apparent in the courtroom. Tenants rarely have representation while many landlords retain counsel,” Gainey said. “The goal of the Eviction Clinic is to educate both tenants and private landlords about their rights in the dispossessory process in order to increase judicial efficiency and prevent unlawful evictions. By giving both unrepresented parties a better understanding of the law, we are able to proactively address housing issues in the community.”
Gainey is proud to join the group of attorneys committed to the GHC in addressing a systemic issue affecting a vulnerable portion of the Atlanta community.
“Housing instability reaches into so many components of a person’s livelihood, and it’s an issue that largely remains out of the news cycle. When a family or individual gets evicted, they receive a judgment that follows them around as a red flag to future landlords. Evicted families are more likely to move into substandard housing, lose their jobs, create educational instability for their children, and experience higher rates of psychological distress,” he said.
Since its inception, Equal Justice Works has awarded more than 2,000 fellowships to public interest lawyers committed to building a more just society. An estimated 85 percent of fellows continue to serve the public interest beyond their fellowships.