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California Eviction Defense: Protecting Low-Income Tenants

Speaker(s): Claudia Medina, Deborah Thrope, Erin Katayama, Irina Naduhovskaya, Laurance Lee, Lauren DeMartini, Lili Graham, Lorraine A. López, Navneet Grewal, Sang Banh, Shirley Gibson
Recorded on: Mar. 10, 2019
PLI Program #: 268605

Deborah Thrope is the Deputy Director of the National Housing Law Project (NHLP). Deborah’s work focuses on federal, state, and local policy advocacy to preserve affordable housing and tenants’ rights. She provides training and technical assistance to advocates working with low-income tenants and serves as an advisor and editor of NHLP’s seminal publication, HUD Housing Programs: Tenants Rights. Deborah has testified before Congress about increasing economic mobility in the Housing Choice Voucher program and improving living conditions for public housing residents. Before she joined NHLP, Deborah was a Senior Attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and represented clients with disabilities facing eviction and civil commitment.

Ms. Medina earned a B.A. in Sociology from Occidental College. After her undergraduate studies, Ms. Medina participated in the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, and worked for the United Farm Workers before attending UC Berkeley School of Law. During law school, Ms. Medina participated in wage justice clinics, served as External Affairs Vice President for the Graduate Assembly, and interned with the East Bay Community Law Center’s community economic justice project.

Upon graduating law school, Ms. Medina worked as a staff attorney for the Eviction Defense Network, where she litigated hundreds of cases on behalf of low-income tenants facing eviction from their homes. Ms. Medina also served as co-director for the organization. After leaving Eviction Defense Network, Ms. Medina was a staff attorney at Public Counsel, where she was instrumental in establishing an eviction defense project for the organization as part of the statewide Shriver housing pilot project. Ms. Medina then joined BASTA, Inc., where she litigated slum housing cases on behalf of low-income tenants living in unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions. Ms. Medina currently works for Eviction Defense Network where she is in charge of the organizations’ affirmative litigation practice where she litigates cases on behalf of tenants suing their landlords for various tenant rights violations.

Irina Naduhovskaya is a housing attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid in San Francisco. Irina specializes in defending subsidized housing tenants in evictions and subsidy termination hearings. Prior to joining BayLegal as a housing attorney in 2012, she clerked at BayLegal working with domestic violence survivors on family law and immigration issues. Irina received a B.A. in Sociology from UC Berkeley and a law degree from the USF School of Law.

Lauren DeMartini is a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid, representing low-income tenants in unlawful detainers, subsidy terminations, and fair housing cases. Lauren previously represented tenants in Contra Costa County and Santa Clara County, and currently works in the City and County of San Francisco. A 2011 graduate of New York University School of Law, Lauren worked as a fellow at ACLU of Northern California prior to joining BayLegal.

Sang Banh is a staff attorney with Inland Counties Legal Services Inc.  Inland Counties Legal Services Inc. provides services to low income persons and seniors residing in both San Bernardino County and Riverside County.  She litigates housing and consumer law issues.   Her focus is on preserving tenants’ right to affordable housing and defending consumers against debt collectors.

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.

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.

Lili Graham is Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Practice Group at Disability Rights California.  Her work focuses on systemic and impact advocacy and litigation for low-income clients with disabilities.  Primarily, Lili has focused on affordable housing preservation and homelessness advocacy.  She was the former Director of Litigation at Community Legal Aid SoCal, formerly Legal Aid Society of Orange County/Community Legal Services. Prior to that role, Lili was the directing attorney of the Homelessness Prevention and Housing Unit at Public Law Center and was a former public defender in Ramsey County, Minnesota.

Lorraine López is currently a Supervising Attorney for the Coordinated Attorney Team at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (“NLSLA”) (Glendale, CA). Lorraine is one of two Supervising Attorneys leading a team of 10+ attorneys who practice in a wide range of poverty law areas including housing, consumer, public benefits, immigration and family law. Prior to joining NLSLA, Lorraine was a Supervising Attorney at Inner City Law Center (“ICLC”) with their Homelessness Prevention Project. Lorraine began her legal career in 2005 as an Equal Justice Works fellow at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (now LAF) where she provided legal representation, community legal education, and outreach programs for participants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. In 2007, she moved to Los Angeles to work for Eviction Defense Network (EDN) where she was introduced to the specific legal challenges of low-income renters in Los Angeles before taking a position at ICLC in 2009. Lorraine received her J.D. from Tulane University Law School in 2005 and her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001.

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.

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.