PUBLISHED:April 21, 2020

Civil Justice Clinic students Batra ’20 and Shadeed JD/LLM ’21 secure reinstatement of homeless client’s housing voucher


“We learned that advocating for one’s client does not end with a bad verdict,” Batra said of the students’ persistence in negotiating a positive outcome for their client.

Duke Civil Justice Clinic students Meghna Batra ’20 and Jared Shadeed JD/LLM ’21 have been successful in securing the reinstatement of a client’s housing voucher after its administrative termination. The reinstatement of the rent-subsidy voucher following the students’ direct negotiation with an attorney for the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) gives their client, who is currently homeless, a chance to secure private rental housing.

The client, who had been receiving assistance from DHA’s Housing Voucher Program that helps very low-income families to pay their rent, was rendered homeless after her landlord declined to renew her lease that ended Oct. 31 and her voucher was terminated due to a criminal charge her minor daughter incurred last May. Her attempt to avoid the loss of her voucher by vacating her rental early was unsuccessful.

Batra and Shadeed, who were supervised in the case by James Scott Farrin Lecturing Fellow and clinic Supervising Attorney Jesse McCoy, advocated for the client before a DHA hearings officer on Feb. 19 arguing, in part, that the voucher should not have been terminated based on an unproven charge against her daughter and when alternative resolutions were available, but it was upheld. The two initiated post-hearing communication with DHA’s attorney after researching the potential for federal litigation in the matter, and on April 3 were told the hearings officer’s decision was rescinded and their client would be reinstated.

“Working on this case showed me the importance of persistence in the face of injustice,” said Batra, who noted their client faced procedural violations and an apparent lack of impartiality in the DHA hearing process.  “We had heard that the system seems stacked against certain individuals, and we witnessed that firsthand here. In the face of this discouragement, though, we learned that advocating for one’s client does not end with a bad verdict. As a result of our team’s persistence, our client will now have access to stable housing in an otherwise tumultuous time.”

For Shadeed, the case offered a “phenomenal” learning experience, as well a view into how socio-economic inequalities can truly be harmful. “Without access to justice through the Civil Justice Clinic, a client such as this one would likely be left with no real avenue to advocate for herself” he said, noting the enormous personal ramifications a negative ruling carried for the client. “We had to be purposeful advocates, and that entailed using many different skills, from legal research to drafting arguments to effectively advocating in an actual hearing. The value of persistence was quite evident because we had to come back from the negative decision and find an alternative way to ultimately achieve success for our client.”