August 6, 2021
We were fortunate to have Aaron Frazee as a paralegal in our Human Right to Housing Project this year through Jesuit Volunteer Corps. As he prepares to begin law school, Aaron reflects on his time at the PJC.
I entered the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in August 2020 seeking a service placement with direct engagement with clients within the realm of legal services. I intentionally chose a year of service after graduation as a way to gain direct experience working within the legal system and providing access to justice for marginalized communities. I began my position at the Public Justice Center as a paralegal with our Human Right to Housing team knowing that I would be working with clients facing eviction, other housing issues, or disputes with their landlord. I expected to learn a lot and witness the legal system up close and personal, but I now realize I vastly underestimated the amount of direct engagement and client interaction I would participate in over the next year.
It is impossible to overstate the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on renters and housing systems across our country. In a city that contains more renters than homeowners, Baltimore renters have been hit with an unprecedented level of uncertainty and hardship. Our Housing team has felt the COVID impact through engagement with a significant number of tenants in need of assistance who have never been previously faced with legal action regarding eviction.
As an aspiring lawyer and advocate, I have found the opportunity to work alongside attorneys who are truly on the front lines of the work for justice to be an invaluable experience. I have witnessed the dual approach of both direct representation and litigation and advocacy for policy and systemic change as equal means towards the end of true justice. I have seen our legal institutions and proceedings sometimes value fairness and work for tenants, but more often than not, profoundly fail to address the inequities and power imbalance that exist within our legal and affordable housing systems.
As I am preparing to begin my own legal education this fall, my experience this year at PJC has shown me the numerous ways public interest lawyers work for the common good and social justice. The opportunity to witness the that legal representation has had in the lives of our clients has greatly affirmed the call I felt towards public service. Providing access to representation has helped empower tenants with the knowledge of their own rights and establish a sense of housing stability for our clients and their families. The policy victories, such as the passage of Right to Counsel in eviction cases in Baltimore, that I have witnessed at PJC have impressed upon me the difference that can be made in the field of public interest law and advocacy. It is for all these reasons and others that I know my experience and time with PJC will go with me into law school and my future career.