Readout of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta’s Meeting with State Chief Justices
Today, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta met with over 35 Chief Justices of state supreme courts to discuss the housing and eviction crisis confronting the country. The Attorney General thanked the Chief Justices for their work on the issue and highlighted the Associate Attorney General’s recent letter outlining steps that state courts could take to raise awareness of emergency rental assistance and to implement eviction diversion strategies in their jurisdictions. The Attorney General applauded the work in states like Michigan, where the State Supreme Court has issued an order requiring courts to stay eviction proceedings for up to 45 days to allow a tenant to apply for rental assistance. In Texas, the Supreme Court modified the notices that are sent to tenants who are sued for eviction to make sure they are aware of the benefits available to them. Simple steps like these can increase the chance that tenants can stay in their homes and help courts that are being deluged with eviction filings.
The Attorney General also heard from the Chief Justices about the obstacles their courts face in combating the crisis and committed the Department of Justice to doing everything it can to support their efforts. He emphasized that the federal government has made funds available to state courts that are seeking to implement eviction diversion programs, including the $350 billion that the American Rescue Plan allocated to state and local governments and the $46.5 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The President of the National Center for State Courts spoke to the Attorney General about the work the Center has done to support eviction diversion efforts, including creating a diagnostic tool that helps courts fashion diversion programs that best suit their jurisdiction.
The Attorney General asked the Associate Attorney General and Chief Justices to continue working together on this critical issue and to identify obstacles that the federal government can help address.