BOC to recognize award received by Cobb County Magistrate Court for its work on the rental assistance program

Doorway to magistrate court, the court which conducts eviction hearingsEntrance to a Cobb County magistrate courtroom (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

At the upcoming regular meeting of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday June 28, at 7:00 p.m., the BOC will highlight the honor the Cobb County Magistrate Court received at the ACCG Georgia County Excellence Awards Program in April for the court’s innovative emergency rental assistance program.

The agenda item states:

Cobb has consistently been one of the leaders in distributing emergency rental assistance, not only in the state but in the country. Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Murphy’s programs to work with nonprofits have been highlighted at the national level, appearing in some White House briefings over ERA funding. The programs continue to provide aid into 2022.

Magistrate Court is where eviction proceedings take place in Cobb County.

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With the outbreak of the pandemic, Chief Magistrate Brendan Murphy worked on putting measures in place to minimize the impact of the COVID-fueled economic downturn on renters.

The county’s new release announcing that award stated:

When presenting the award, Council President and Cobb Magistrate Court Judge Quinn Kasper cited Judge Murphy’s successful navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic, his innovative partnerships with rental assistance providers in Landlord/Tenant Court that have been studied statewide, and his service with multiple judicial bodies.

This is not the first time Murphy and the Magistrate Court’s work on the eviction issue has been recognized. Last year, as a result of this work Murphy was named the Council of Magistrate Court Judges “2021 Workhorse of the Year” at their Spring Executive Committee Meeting of 2021.

Murphy established a FAQ during the height of the pandemic explaining the state of eviction proceedings to tenants, landlords and the public. The FAQ was updated as new policies and information arose.

The efforts of Cobb County Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Murphy to lessen the effects of the impending eviction crisis were featured in the Second White House Eviction Prevention Convening.

“We’re a community of just under 800,000 people right outside of Atlanta,” Murphy said during that hearing. “Even pre-pandemic, our community saw approximately 20,000 eviction filings in our court each year.”

“For our program, like many of you, the gold standard is to apply for assistance before an eviction is ever filed,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the challenge was how to reach people most at risk of eviction. One thing the court did was include a packet with each eviction notice with information on how to apply for rental assistance.

“We gave landlords information on how to apply for rental assistance when they came to file an eviction, to see if they would consider applying for the assistance before even filing the eviction,” Murphy said. “And then court notices that are sent to both parties were also modified in case folks missed it the first time.”

“But once a case gets to court, court-based rental assistance is absolutely critical,” he said. “That’s what both sides have told us.”

“Here in Cobb County, we consider that to be the safety net for the safety net, to make sure that even if you haven’t heard of the program, even if you haven’t had an opportunity to apply, you will have that opportunity at the very last minute before an eviction goes through,” Murphy said. “We’re thankful to our Chairwoman here Lisa Cupid and the Board of Commissioners for their foresight in accepting the ERA1 funding and appropriating that to five rental assistance providers across Cobb County.”

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