U of M law students file lawsuits to fight blight

Updated: Feb. 21, 2019 at 4:33 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - University of Memphis law students joined forces with the Neighborhood Preservation Clinic to file lawsuits against 30 blighted properties Thursday.

They made their way to the General Sessions Clerk office with a goal to take action against blighted properties in the city.

Jared Davenport is a second year law student. He says he’s gaining real-world experience in his prospective field and making a difference.

"We want to hold people accountable," Davenport said."It's a wonderful feeling. We've already had properties that we were assigned at the beginning of the semester that have been completely rehabilitated."

Students filed lawsuits against properties like the one on Wabash Avenue, filled with tall grass, boarded up windows and doors.

"In general, they are properties that have not been able to become compliant under code enforcement's usual enforcement process. Not for lack of code enforcement trying, but generally there's just non-responsiveness on part of the owner," U of M Associate Professor Danny Schaffzin said.

Since the Neighborhood Preservation Clinic launched in 2015, student attorneys have filed more than 100 lawsuits and represented the City of Memphis in more than 1000 cases.

It's something professors say is a win-win.

“Making sure that we can focus on properties at an individual level like this clinic does, really does change the game,” Schaffzin said.

The Blight Elimination Steering Team released a list of properties with the most code violations in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Some of the highest concentration of violations are spread throughout the metro area.

The city’s efforts to fight blight don’t stop there.

Public Works Director Robert Knecht says the city is working on an ordinance to create a registry data base. He says he hopes to have it in place by July 1.

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