Fellowships for "Robin Hood" hackers to help poor people get access to the law

New York City's Robin Hood Labs at Blue Ridge Laboratories have opening for paid fellowships to develop apps and technologies to give low-income people legal assistance in civil proceedings, like evictions, debt collection, and immigration procedures.

Because these are civil matters, not criminal, there is no right to legal aid, so poor people often end up representing themselves against high-paid lawyers (or they simply default) — 10% of tenants have lawyers in eviction proceedings, versus 90% of landlords who show up with counsel. Legal aid turns away 8 of every 9 applicants seeking legal help.

The fellowship looks for entrepreneurs, UI/UX experts, full-stack developers, and legal experts to work together to build technology to make it easier for New Yorkers to get high-quality, reliable legal advice and understand their rights, as well as growing the supply of pro-bono lawyers.

Previous fellows have built apps like Justfix.nyc, which builds an evidentiary record of tenants' maintenance problems that they can take to Housing Court; and Propel, for tracking food stamp balances from a smartphone.

There is a staggering need for legal services among low-income New Yorkers, and it threatens to tear at the fabric of our democracy.

The courts are the final line of defense against poverty and inequality — particularly for children, seniors, domestic violence victims, veterans, and immigrants. Having a lawyer can mean a family stays in their home when threatened by an unscrupulous landlord, a hard-working single mother isn't cheated of her wages, and families aren't torn apart by deportation. Yet too many New Yorkers lack the support of an attorney when they are forced to fight for their basic rights.

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that anyone accused of a crime deserves the right to counsel, but no such right exists for civil cases. As a result, the overwhelming majority of civil defendants walk into court without legal representation.

THE FELLOWSHIP [Blue Ridge Labs]

(via O'Reilly Radar)