Guest Post: Elijah Oyenuga is one of the Summer Jobs Student working at the Boston Bar Association. He recently graduated from Another Course to College in Brighton and will be attending Lesley University next year.
Imaging the chaos of Boston Housing Court was one thing, but viewing it was a whole different experience. My fellow interns and I paid a visit to the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse last week. We didn’t exactly get a standard tour, but we were able to see what Housing Court is really like for the people involved. There were lots of people crowding around the volunteers participating in the Lawyer for the Day Program, carts filled with filed paperwork and people waiting adamantly for roll call to begin. I have to say that it wasn’t what I expected. The day began with people crowding into the courtroom, squishing themselves in seats or standing against the wall as the court officer ordered everyone to stay clear of the doors.
I believed that we were going to be here for hours as they went through each individual case. Instead, each case went rapidly as they called for the tenant and the landlord and for a lot of the cases; one or both parties were not present. But for those who were, they were asked whether they were willing to go to mediation or go to trial and most chose mediation over trial. In all honesty, it was a tedious process; we probably went through forty different cases, so to say the least, I was glad when we finally transitioned to trial.
The Housing Court trials were a great learning experience and they really opened my eyes to the importance of representation. There was a specific case in which one of the parties, the tenant, was pro se and the landlord was represented by a lawyer. There was a significant difference in the way they were able to articulate themselves. The lawyer, who was more articulate, had too much of an advantage over a woman who clearly spoke English as a second language. In addition to that, she had gotten some awful advice from a lawyer stating that if there was construction being done in the apartment, she wouldn’t have to move out if she missed a payment. I could clearly see the difference between having a lawyer standing up for you and not having one. There were other trials that were very engaging and I am very thankful to the BBA for giving me the opportunity to visit the court.