Posted by Pauli on May 29, 2000 at 22:38:50:
A Housing Court renegade says evictions can help
troubled tenants. Their lawyers say she must be stopped.
things just get stranger and stranger: a GAL helping to evict tenants? what's next?
An activist guardian like Marshall is an anomaly. More
commonly, legal guardians are little more than a fragile
lifeline for vulnerable tenants on the brink of eviction. In
Housing Court, proceedings move at a dizzying pace.
Landlords usually have experienced lawyers; tenants are
usually alone and confused. For the mentally ill, mentally
disabled and elderly, it can be a disaster.
"It is a million times worse than a regular Housing Court
proceeding," says Teresa Dafanzo, an attorney who has
represented numerous mentally ill tenants. "They can
lose their apartment without knowing what happened. It is
"My client's guardian couldn't have cared less," agrees
Jodi Horowitz, executive director of the Citywide Task
Force on Housing Court. As a tenant lawyer, she
represented a mentally and physically disabled man who
was being evicted after falling behind on his rent.
According to Horowitz, the PSA guardian never appeared
before the judge, read the evaluation or even met the
client. "He assumed I'd do everything, and I did," she
says. "But had I not handled it, who knew what he would
Marshall, on the other hand, has infuriated tenant lawyers
by doing too much. Attorney Bill Whalen met Marshall last year when a
mentally ill client of his was about to be thrown out of his
Washington Heights apartment. The man had fallen
behind on rent after his roommate of eight years moved
out. Marshall, as his guardian, declared him unable to live
independently and suggested he move to a group home.
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