The Dallas Association of Young Lawyers is pleased to announce that Lauren Melton has been selected as the recipient of the DAYL 2020-2021 Liberty Bell Award. In this troubling time for many – losing jobs and then their homes because of the pandemic – Lauren Melton has stepped up to serve. Her work has stopped nearly 6,000 evictions, and that number of families are still in their homes because of her tireless efforts.
For the last year, Lauren has worked full-time helping to manage the DallasEvictions2020 pro bono project. That project has recruited over 175 volunteer lawyers to assist tenants in Dallas County that are facing eviction as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. To date, the program has assisted nearly 6,000 such tenants. To describe the work that Lauren does, tenants reach out to DallasEvictions2020 by email, phone (text or voicemail), or through its website. Every contact made by a tenant goes directly to Lauren. She performs intake and assigns a volunteer lawyer to the case. Once a lawyer is assigned, Lauren acts as case manager, for every case, to make sure that the tenant’s case is being handled and performing necessary follow-up. Lauren has been the nerve-center of DallasEvictions2020 and during the height of the pandemic, she worked endlessly to try to help those who faced losing their home.
While not a lawyer herself, Lauren has spent so much time with this issue, she knows eviction law inside and out. She regularly assists tenants directly with CDC declaration forms and rent assistance applications. And, she answers questions for volunteer lawyers to help train them and get them up to speed as they learn this area of the law. In many courts, the staff know her by name.
Lauren’s work with tenants in need is not limited to getting them to the Courtroom. Rather, Lauren takes a direct interest in many or the tenants’ lives. She makes runs to the bank to get checks to pay rent or to make deposits into the courts’ registries to perfect appeals. She calls and visits tenants to make sure they have food and water. She even drives tenants around to job interviews and medical appointments. She works tirelessly, including nights and weekends, and has even cancelled holiday vacations to continue her work with DallasEvictions2020. Without her full-time efforts over the last year, the program would not have been the success that it has been and thousands in Dallas County would have lost their shelter against the storm of the coronavirus. It is for this reason that Lauren Melton was selected as the DAYL Liberty Bell Award recipient for 2020-2021.