SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The Utah Supreme Court has announced an innovative project that aims to provide free legal advice to people facing housing issues in the state.

According to the press release, the Utah Supreme Court’s Office of Legal Services Innovation, along with Innovation 4 Justice, is launching the Housing Stability Legal Advocate Pilot Program that will train nonlawyers working within community-based organizations or nonprofits to become legal advocates who may bridge the gap in access to legal aid for vulnerable populations.

“Housing instability is a significant challenge in Utah and across the nation, and many people facing eviction and foreclosure have difficulty accessing legal help,” representatives of the Utah State Courts said.

Individuals from these community-based organizations will participate in the pilot program through the Court’s legal regulatory sandbox, which refers to a mechanism where entities are permitted to offer new and innovative ideas, methods, and models of legal practice that may stray from traditional legal rules.

i4J will offer a free curriculum and certify individuals who complete the HSLA program with satisfactory scores. These individuals will go on to become legal advocates who can provide free limited-scope legal advice on housing-related issues through their community-based organizations in Utah authorized by the sandbox.

The HSLA Pilot Program will focus on four areas:

  • Issue spotting for housing stability issues during community-based organizations’ client intake
  • Providing legal advice and assistance with identified housing issues before they advance to court
  • Providing legal advice and assistance with post-judgment procedures
  • Providing legal advice and assistance related to other state and federal assistance programs

The press release states that these legal advocates are not authorized to represent others in any Utah courts at this time.

“This innovative approach to addressing housing issues is a significant step forward in the Supreme Court’s efforts to bridge the access to justice gap,” the press release stated. “By leveraging the expertise of [community-based organizations] and providing necessary training and support, the HSLA Pilot Program has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of those facing housing instability in Utah.”