Eviction by Design: The Role of Court Documents, Self-Help Materials, and Judicial Actors in the Tenant Experience of Summary Eviction
AuthorBernal, Daniel William
KeywordsAccess to Justice
Randomized Field Experiment
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis purpose of this project was to understand how Arizona tenants experience the judicial process of summary eviction and whether that experience might be meaningfully improved. While the psychological, social, and economic effects of eviction are currently in the national spotlight, few scholars have investigated the legal documents that quietly shunt tenants out of their houses and the justice innovations designed to help them resist. In addition, there has been surprisingly little qualitative research of tenants during the eviction process that investigates why they choose to attend their hearing, how they perceive housing court, and whether they are able to accomplish their stated goals through their attendance and participation. By comprehensively analyzing the tenant experience, I provide court practitioners with recommendations for redesigning housing court more equitably. This project is comprised of four stand-alone studies. Chapter 1 describes a linguistic and rhetorical analysis of the documents that evict. As a case study, I analyze the notice and pleading documents most filed in an Arizona housing court, measure their real-world impact, and present model eviction notice and pleading forms. Chapter 2, written with Margaret Hagan, integrates existing expert-oriented and user-centered approaches to designing justice innovation and presents a first attempt at establishing a standard methodology for creating and vetting new justice interventions. We present the methodology used to create the eviction self-help materials used in this project as an example and argue that a human-centered, participatory approach should become the standard in justice innovation design. Chapter 3, written with Andy Yuan, describes the results of a randomized study to provide self-help information to tenants facing eviction in one Arizona court. We find no evidence that provision of self-help improved court attendance or case outcomes; in contrast, treated tenants were significantly more likely to owe their landlords more money. In Chapter 4, I present findings from qualitative interviews with tenants after their eviction hearing and posit recommendations for housing court redesign.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English