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Headshot of Matthew Reed Maxson

Matt Maxson

  • Hosted by Legal Aid Chicago
  • Sponsored by Anonymous, United Airlines
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school University of Chicago Law School
  • Issue area Housing/Eviction
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Eviction court is a harrowing experience. Eviction proceedings operate on an expedited timeline with a lessened pleading standard and most defendants are impoverished; few have access to counsel, leaving vulnerable tenants subject to abuses. Among other unscrupulous practices, landlords try to keep tenants out of eviction court altogether with “sewer service” or by filing evictions in the wrong venue. Many defendants are never given any detailed accounting of their debts, with many landlords taking advantage of this to inflate charges. Often, they try to unjustly tack on legal fees in settled cases or even outright invent non-existent debts. Eviction law offers little protection against these abuses.

Though tenants are consumers, consumer protection laws are rarely, if ever, used to protect them. Consumer protection laws, however, may offer protection against fraudulent or dishonest filings, allowing tenants to stave off evictions, reduce their debts, and access their full rights. Matt’s experiences in direct service and love for Chicago led him to pursue a legal career dedicated to furthering access to the fundamental right of housing for its residents.

Fellowship Plans

Matt will spend the next two years working at Legal Aid Chicago to represent tenants facing eviction in Cook County, Illinois in cases where landlords: (1) seek eviction based on false or misrepresented money claims–e.g., unlawful late fees, overcharged rent or utilities, etc.; and (2) try to prevent tenants from appearing in eviction court, by filing in the wrong city or using “sewer service.” He hopes to bring a consumer protection approach to eviction cases in order to better defend tenants, particularly in cases where eviction is based in part on false claims. At the end of the fellowship, he will train others in the consumer protection strategies that were most effective, creating a “toolkit” for other lawyers in the housing/evictions space.

As a social worker on the West Side of Chicago, I saw just how foundational access to stable housing can be and just how precarious housing is for so many. I came to law school in the first place in hopes of securing and protecting this foundational right.

Matt Maxson /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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