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News Item
Ramsey County workgroup earns statewide award for efforts to improve housing court

Posted: Monday, December 18, 2017

The Board of Directors of the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) has awarded the 2017 A. M. “Sandy” Keith Alternative Dispute Resolution Award to the Second Judicial District Housing Court Workgroup – a collaborative effort between Ramsey County District Court and housing stakeholders to ensure a fair and effective process for all litigants appearing in Housing Court. The award was presented during the Dispute Resolution Center 35th Anniversary and Volunteer Recognition Celebration Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, December 13.
 
Judge Guthman accepts the award on behalf of the workgroup.The Second Judicial District Housing Court Workgroup was established following a series of facilitated discussions held in Ramsey County to address challenges in the rental market that frequently find their way into the Second Judicial District Housing Court. In early 2017, Second Judicial District Chief Judge John H. Guthmann convened a group of relevant stakeholders and potential partners, in partnership with The McKnight Foundation and the National Center for State Courts. One of the goals of the group was to determine the extent to which a problem-solving approach could to be applied to the Housing Court.
 
As a result of those facilitated discussions, Chief Judge Guthmann appointed the Workgroup on March 31, 2017, to develop strategies and recommendations to strengthen access for landlords and tenants to legal, financial, and social services—before, during, and after the Housing Court first appearance calendar.
 
The workgroup focused their efforts on improving understanding of court processes with landlords and tenants, expanding the availability and awareness of mediation services, and increasing coordination with community organizations, such as providing space outside courtrooms for Ramsey County Human Services Emergency Assistance personnel to share information with Housing Court participants.
 
The Second Judicial District is currently working with county officials and community organizations to implement many of the workgroup’s key recommendations.
 
“With the cost of housing in our community on the rise, it is crucially important that we have a system in place to quickly and fairly resolve housing disputes, and to make sure tenants and landlords are aware of their rights and available resources,” said Chief Judge Guthmann. “I am so proud of the work we have been able to accomplish through this Housing Court Workgroup, and am grateful for all of the community partners who participated in this collaborative process.”

Second Judicial District Housing Court Workgroup holding their award. (left to right) Referee Elizabeth Clysdale, Jerry Kaluzny of SMRLS, Chief Judge John Guthmann, Colleen Ebinger, Judge Shawn Bartsh 

Members of the Second Judicial District Housing Court Workgroup included: Chief Judge Guthmann; Second Judicial District Housing Court Referee Elizabeth A. Clysdale; Pa Zao Vang, Supervisor of the Second Judicial District Housing-Conciliation Court Division; Michal Upton, Administrator of the Second Judicial District Civil Division; Carol Buche, Owner, Twin City Tenant Check; Patricia Whitney, Esq.; Laura Busian, Volunteer Lawyers Network; Jeanne Zimmer, Dispute Resolution Center;  Bridget Blomer, Ramsey County Financial Assistance Services; Traci Joseph, Ramsey County Financial Assistance Services; Gerry Kaluzny, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services; Colleen Ebinger, CEO, Impact Strategies Group; and Patti Tobias, National Center for State Courts.
 
The A. M. “Sandy” Keith Alternative Dispute Resolution Award
The Dispute Resolution Center’s A. M. “Sandy” Keith Alternative Dispute Resolution Award was developed to recognize an individual or group that has demonstrated commitment to the promotion and support of the use of alternative dispute resolution processes, particularly in conjunction with the courts.   
 
The Ramsey County Rental Market
 
According to the findings of the Second Judicial District Housing Court Workgroup:

  • Nearly 150,000 households in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area (approximately 1 in eight) spend 50% or more of their income on housing.
  • 51% of St. Paul residents live in rental housing and 52% of them are considered to be “cost burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent.
  • Nearly three out of four households of color in Saint Paul rent.
  • An analysis of data from Minnesota’s Second Judicial District’s Housing Court (Ramsey County) found that approximately 3,000 evictions have been filed annually in recent years, the vast majority for non-payment of rent.