Alumna Contributes to the Louisville Community by Pursuing a Career in Eviction Protection
Rebekah Cotton returned to Louisville to make a difference, and through her work with the Legal Aid Society, she is making an important contribution to the local community. In April 2021, Cotton was hired as one of a handful of lawyers to assist with an influx of evictions. Since then, Cotton has led trainings for the Volunteer Eviction Defense Program, helping to build a volunteer team of lawyers eager to serve people in need.
After graduating from UofL Brandeis School of Law in 2010, Cotton worked consistently in the legal sector of public service. She started her career with Kentucky Protection and Advocacy in Frankfort. A statewide organization based in the Department of Public Advocacy; she assisted people with disabilities in navigating legal issues. When an opportunity came to continue her public service work back in Louisville, Cotton was delighted to take the chance.
Legal Aid was facing a particular crisis during the pandemic with housing-related cases. “When I interviewed for the job, they asked if I had familiarity with eviction law,” Cotton said. She understood the scope of the problem. “There’s a lot of stereotyping and marginalization of people for being evicted. We wonder what they did wrong, why they can’t pay their way, but it just isn’t like that. In a heartbeat, almost any of us can end up in that situation.”
Eviction is among the most common problems brought to Legal Aid. Established in 1921, the Legal Aid Society aims to provide equal access to the justice system. With a focus on supporting families and housing security, evictions are a key concern.
Training for the Volunteer Eviction Defense Program started last November. “We had 29 volunteers take cases, including several 3L Brandeis Clinic students, supervised by professors Heend Sheth and Jeffrey Metzmeier,” Cotton recalls, “and those 29 have taken over 130 cases already. Eviction tends to be pretty contained – it’s usually resolved in a few hours.” With all eviction cases in Jefferson County on Zoom, it’s an ideal scenario for those wanting pro bono work. Legal Aid attorneys are on hand to help with any questions, creating a supportive environment for volunteers. Success rates for those attending eviction court with representation are 10 times greater than those without. As an eviction on your financial record can never be erased, having trained volunteers is vital.
The Volunteer Lawyer Program at Legal Aid can be accessed here: Volunteer — legal aid society (yourlegalaid.org)