Rural Summer Legal Corps Fellow on Her Summer of Service

November 12, 2018

The Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC) is a privately funded initiative that connects law students with legal aid programs in the common pursuit of better addressing the civil legal needs of rural communities. In partnership with Equal Justice Works, LSC selects about thirty of the nation’s most talented and dedicated law students to spend their summers working at LSC-grantee offices across the United States and its territories. Here's 2018 RSLC fellow Stephanie DeMartini's account of her summer working with Legal Services of Hudson Valley.

RSLC Service Spotlight
Stephanie DeMartini
Legal Services of Hudson Valley

Being a Rural Legal Services Corporation fellow at the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley this summer allowed me the opportunity to work closely with clients who were in precarious housing situations. When people came to see me, they were usually clutching a 72-hour eviction notice.  

The day after a client is served, the clock runs down, and we work fast to try to halt the eviction. One of the most important facets of our work is preparing pro se orders to show cause for clients. If a client can get the order signed, he or she will at least have more time to find a new place to live or remain in their current living situation.  

Helping clients in this capacity is extremely rewarding because they become self-advocates. In my experience, when a person is in a fight to stay sheltered the situation can lead to a feeling of powerlessness. Most clients feel that the legal system that seems out of reach. However, it is heartening to know that there are some clients who never lose sight of the power they possess in our legal system.   

I had the honor of meeting Ana Smith*, a single mother of two whos always been a fighter. When she was in high school, she worked incredibly hard to graduate and raise her first born daughter. Now a mom of two, she fearlessly advocates for her children’s education and her housing situation. Ms. Smith had an issue with Section 8 and her rent was not paid. Once the situation was brought to her attention, she came to Legal Services for help. She was organized, poised, and ready to navigate the Town of Thompson Court. Ms. Smith got her eviction stayed. She is now in the process of finding an apartment that is better suited for her family.   

When Ms. Smith got a pro se order signed and served it on the landlord and the sheriff, her power was affirmed. For most clients, that process rejuvenates their power. People come to Legal Services when they feel like the whole world is against them. Knowing that our organization has the power to help people feel empowered makes our work more special. Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s Housing Unit saves people from homelessness on a day-to-day basis because we win cases. We also restore people’s faith in themselves.   

*Name changed to retain client privacy.