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Advocates’ Guide for Protecting Tenants’ Rights: Advanced Unlawful Detainer Defense 2019

Speaker(s): Erin Katayama, Joshua J. Johnson, Laurance Lee, Lisa Greif, Melissa A. Morris, Monique Berlanga, Natalie Minev, Navneet Grewal, Richard A. Rothschild, Shirley Gibson
Recorded on: Mar. 6, 2019
PLI Program #: 252566

Lisa Greif is a Supervising Attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid's Alameda County Housing Unit. She has over 15 years of experience in affordable housing preservation and she has represented individuals and tenant associations in numerous cases. Ms. Greif's litigation experience has focused on eviction defense for clients in public, subsidized and private housing, Section 8 termination hearings, fair housing enforcement and housing authority policy advocacy. She has litigated several affirmative impact cases including enforcement of low-income senior tenants’ rights to remain with enhanced vouchers and a successful challenge to a housing authority's improper use of criminal records in the admission process.

Monique Berlanga is the Executive Director of Centro Legal de la Raza, a non-profit legal service provider working to protect and advance the rights of low-income, immigrant, Black, and Latinx communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy.

Prior to taking the helm as ED, Monique let Centro’s Tenants’ Rights Practice as the Directing Attorney. Under Monique’s leadership, Centro Legal’s Tenants’ Rights Practice grew from a team of six to over forty and provided legal services to over 2,500 tenants last year alone. The Practice is partnering with Alameda County to administer over $130 million in federal rental assistance. Prior to joining Centro Legal, Monique worked as a housing staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid where her practice focused on eviction defense in the context of subsidized housing and representation of tenants in fair housing matters. Prior to that, Berlanga spent five years as the managing attorney of the Eviction Defense Center in Oakland, where she litigated over 1,500 cases on behalf of low-income tenants facing eviction from their homes in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

An East Bay native, she has personal and professional insight to the political, economic, and social climate in the East Bay. Monique holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and has over 10 years of public interest litigation experience. Monique was the recipient of the Hon. Cruz Reynoso Social Justice Fellowship. She was recently elected to serve as a Board Member of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO).

Erin has been with the Justice and Diversity Center’s Homeless Advocacy Project since 2012 and is the Supervising Attorney for the Eviction Defense program. She specializes in full-scope legal representation for tenants who are facing eviction - including work on discovery, pre and post-trial motions, settlement, trial, and post-judgment work. While working at HAP, Erin has been a guest speaker at the Housing Justice Network conference, the Mental Health Association, the University Of San Francisco School Of Law and the Equal Justice Network annual conference. While working at HAP, Erin has temporarily supervised and trained attorneys who volunteered to represent tenants for the Housing Negotiations Project.

In 2015, Erin joined the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Criminal Justice Task Force, formed to address shortcomings and the role of race in the criminal justice system. In 2017, she became an adjunct professor at Golden Gate University Law School teaching Eviction Defense for students in the Honors Lawyering Program.

Erin is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and earned her J.D. from the McGeorge School of Law.

Joshua J. Johnson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, also known as Boalt Hall, in 2011, and has been an active member of the State Bar of California since 2012. During law school, he was awarded by the NAACP with the Honorable Earl Warren Civil Rights Training Scholarship. After law school, he worked at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund where his practice included work on impact litigation cases, community education, and public policy work. After working at Lambda Legal for over one year in a post-graduate fellowship, Joshua was hired as a staff attorney at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) in 2014.

At LAFLA, Joshua has been lead counsel in unlawful detainer (UD) jury trials and bench trials. Joshua has orally argued hundreds of motions and negotiated settlement agreements in hundreds of UD matters wherein he exclusively represents tenants. His practice area is now solely landlord-tenant law, and he has attained experience and expertise in all phases of the representation of tenants, ranging from pre-litigation, to trial, to post-judgment.

Joshua has been remarkable in his efforts to hold bad-actor landlords responsible for their abusive litigation against LAFLA’s UD clients. In LAFLA’s eviction defense practice, Joshua has collected over $7,000.00 in sanctions awarded to LAFLA, and over $200,000.00 in attorney’s fees awarded to LAFLA, exclusively on UD cases.

Joshua is a native Los Angeleno and is fluent in Spanish.

Laurance Lee attended law school at UC Davis School of Law. During law school, Laurance focused his education on public interest law. Laurance has been a staff attorney at Legal Services of Northern California since graduating law school. His practice consists of housing, public benefits, and civil rights.

Melissa A. Morris is a Staff Attorney with the Public Interest Law Project, a statewide support center for legal aid programs throughout California.  Melissa’s work at PILP includes litigation in state and federal court on behalf of low-income individuals and families regarding access to California public benefits programs, affordable housing, fair housing, and the rights of people experiencing homelessness; as well as legislative and administrative advocacy regarding housing and public benefits issues.  Melissa also regularly provides training and technical assistance to legal aid attorneys and other advocates on topics including disability rights, California public benefits programs, eviction defense, criminalization of homelessness, affordable housing policy, mobile home park preservation, and rent control.

Prior to joining PILP in 2018, Melissa worked for 12 years at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, where her practice included direct client representation, impact litigation, and policy advocacy regarding housing, public benefits, voting rights, consumer issues, and the rights of people with disabilities in institutional settings.  Much of her work at the Law Foundation focused on preventing the displacement of low-income tenants and communities of color from Silicon Valley; this work included representing individuals, families, and resident groups at risk of displacement in court and administrative proceedings, advocating for state and local policies to designed to prevent displacement and increase the supply of affordable housing, and working with community groups and low-income tenants to build political power among the people most affected by Silicon Valley's housing crisis.

Melissa began her legal career in 2004 as a Borchard Foundation Center on Law & Aging Fellow at Legal Aid of Marin, where she represented low-income and senior residents of Marin County in housing, domestic violence, elder abuse, and consumer matters.

Natalie Minev is a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. She is part of LAFLA’s Housing and Communities Work Group, where she specializes in impact litigation and policy advocacy related to preserving the affordability of at-risk subsidized housing units in federal, state, and local affordable housing programs. Her areas of expertise are the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, project-based Section 8, HUD mortgage programs, and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit housing. She has advised many hundreds of low-income tenants across L.A. County on subsidized housing issues, and has represented clients in administrative hearings and affirmative litigation in both federal and state court in California based on violations of federal and state fair housing, civil rights, and tenants’ rights statutes. She also focuses on advocacy on behalf of Limited English Proficient tenants and victims of domestic violence covered by the Violence Against Women Act in subsidized housing.

Ms. Minev is a frequent speaker on affordable housing issues, including recent speaking engagements for Loyola Law School, the Los Angeles Law Library, Equal Justice Works, the National Alliance for HUD Tenants, the Southern California Association for Non-Profit Housing, and the National Housing Law Project. She is also the lead facilitator of the Los Angeles Preservation Work Group, a cross-sector work group with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that brings together government officials, tenant advocates, legal services providers, and affordable housing developers to coordinate efforts to preserve affordable housing in Los Angeles.

Ms. Minev is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where she was awarded the Dale Minami Public Interest Award.

Navneet Grewal is a Senior Attorney at Western Center on Law and Poverty, a statewide legal services support center that fights, through litigation and legislative and policy advocacy, to secure housing, health care and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. She has successfully litigated cases in state and federal court that have, for example, expanded due process rights for voucher applicants, reimbursed thousands of public housing residents for rent overcharges, enforced state land use and zoning laws (resulting in the development of affordable housing), and that have preserved mobilehome parks. She also works with the housing team to develop and analyze statewide housing legislation that has led to significant protections for low-income Californians. Critically, she also works to support local legal services attorneys in identifying and assessing critical legal claims that their clients might avail themselves of, both through technical assistance and workshops. Navneet has also written several housing law-related publications; most recently, she was a contributing author to the Section 8 chapter of the 2017 California Rutter Group Practice Guide - Landlord-Tenant. She also previously served on the Steering Committee of the State Bar’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Section and on the Board of Directors of Housing California. In all facets of this work, Navneet strives to ensure that housing policies and practices work toward racial justice. Navneet is a graduate of the New York University School of Law, where she received the Vanderbilt Medal (the highest graduation honor), and the Black, Latino, and Asian Pacific American Alumni Association’s Public Service Award.

Richard A. Rothschild is Director of Litigation at the Western Center on Law & Poverty in Los Angeles. Mr. Rothschild graduated from Yale College and the University of Southern California Law School, where he was a law review editor and a member of the Order of the Coif. He was a law clerk for California Supreme Court Associate Justice Stanley Mosk before joining the Western Center as a staff attorney in 1976.

Mr. Rothschild won the NLADA’s Kutak-Dodds Prize in 2015; Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Shattuck-Price Award in 2012 (LACBA’s highest honor); and the State Bar of California’s Loren Miller Legal Services Award in 2008 (the highest honor bestowed by Bar for public interest attorneys).

Mr. Rothschild supervises Western Center’s litigation and co-counsels on cases himself in the Center’s priority areas of health, welfare, and housing law. He has litigated or settled hundreds of claims for attorneys’ fees for Western Center and its co-counsel, and has written and trained extensively in this area.

Shirley Gibson is Directing Attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. Shirley came to LASSMC in 2007 to develop the housing practice and eviction defense program, which has grown over the past decade to provide direct legal services to over 1,200 tenant households each year. Before coming to Legal Aid, Shirley was a staff attorney at Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco for five years, where she helped pilot San Francisco’s day-of-court representation program for pro per tenants in settlement conferences and the Family Eviction Prevention Consortium rental assistance program. As an associate with the Law Offices of Tim A. Pori, Shirley represented plaintiffs in civil rights and bad faith actions. She has a B.A. from Reed College and a J.D. from New College of California School of Public Interest Law.