NPILF Spotlight: Ivy Lutz, Lincoln Commission on Human Rights

Two people are sitting at a table with a sign that says Lincoln Commission on Human Rights. They are looking at the camera and smiling. The person on the right is wearing a red shirt and sunglasses and has their hair tied back. Ivy is on the right wearing a dark blue polo shirt, eyeglasses, and red lipstick and has brown curly hair.

Ivy (right) and Housing Rights Intern Thuyhong T. Le represented LCHR at Lincoln's Star City Pride and provided information on rental assistance.

by Ivy Lutz

The Nebraska Public Interest Law Fund (NPILF) provides a limited number of stipends to University of Nebraska College of Law students who secure unpaid public interest positions with a host organization that serves an unmet legal need.

2L Ivy Lutz, a 2021 NPILF recipient, worked with the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights and reflects on the experience below. 

I had the most rewarding summer law clerking at the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights (LCHR). In law school, we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves; whether we are smart enough, capable enough, or whether we will excel beyond our peers. During a pandemic, those thoughts were only compounded, and became worrisome and isolating. Exiting my first year of law school during a pandemic, I was ready to engage with the community again.

Most individuals seeking aid from LCHR are experiencing some form of distress such as discrimination, seeking legal aid, or are out of resources and are asking for help. Public interest work demands compassion, patience, and dedication, and I was ready. Ready to be present, and ready to help.

As a Law Clerk and Housing Rights Coordinator I was tasked with drafting eviction defense packets for the Tenant Assistance Project (“TAP”) which operates at Lancaster County Court Monday through Thursday providing individuals and families pro-bono, limited scope legal representation for their pending eviction.

Beyond drafting eviction defense packets, I was trained as a facilitator of TAP. As a facilitator, I ensure that volunteers have their assignments either catching tenants at the corridor or serving as an observer in the court room, and assigned cases to Senior Certified Law Students and supervising attorneys. When SCLS were unavailable, I was able to do intake with clients and negotiate with landlord attorneys for the best outcome for both parties.

In addition to clerking, I coordinated rental and utility assistance between tenants and landlords with University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Center on Children, Families, and the Law (CCFL). CCFL is partnered with the City of Lincoln Urban Development Department and the Lincoln Community Foundation to administer federal rental assistance. To prevent tenants from returning to the courthouse for failure to pay rent, Rental Assistance Coordinators enroll individuals the same day either by paying back rent, future rent, utilities, or finding a new residence to rent where we can then assist with rent. Because I am involved with both programs, I can assist TAP volunteers with corresponding rental assistance. We have assisted around 500 individuals at the courthouse since the program began. CCFL has distributed millions of dollars in rental and utility assistance and have assisted 5,000+ individuals and families. I have personally served over 100+ individuals and families with either civil defense or with rental assistance.

I participated in LCHR and TAP outreach at local community events such as Star City Pride by providing the community information about LCHR mission and to spread the word about Lincoln rental assistance. LCHR dates to 1966 when Lincoln voters passed Article 10, an anti-discrimination and human rights amendment to the City Charter. However, many Lincoln community members are unfamiliar with LCHR’s mission, therefore, outreach is critical in preventing discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

LCHR, as a neutral party, investigates alleged discrimination of a protected class in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Every month, civil rights investigators complete about 6-8 reports that LCHR commissioners use to make decisions as to whether discrimination is evident. My other duties consisted of proofing LCHR Summary Reports and Dispositional Memorandums, coordinating, setting up, and taking minutes at LCHR commissioner meetings, and executing administrative duties as necessary.

Finally, I trained and supervised Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually impaired WAGES program intern, Camille O’Neill. Camille is a high school student in Gretna and was assigned to LCHR to work on rental assistance. Camille is visually impaired, however, with her persistence and use of assistive technology, Camille excelled at helping tenants receive rental assistance and observing at the courthouse.

I had a fantastic summer. I truly enjoyed working with my team and one-on-one with community members.