Eviction Courtwatch Data Release

Neighborhood Economic Vitality

April 2023

From March 18, 2021 to August 2, 2021 the research team observed the eviction proceedings of the Shelby County, TN General Sessions Civil Court. Each week during this period, researchers were given eviction dockets that provided them with relevant information to follow legal proceedings in the courtroom and complete these surveys. Throughout the survey period, the research team met weekly to discuss their experiences. These discussions prompted an adjustment in the survey instrument in June 2021. The following pages provide a numeric code and summary for Phase 1 (3/18/21 to 6/25/2021 3696 surveys) and Phase 2 (6/21/2021 to 8/2/2021 779 surveys) of the observation and survey period. Completing a total of 4,475 surveys, Phase 1 was an 18-question survey. Phase 2 implemented a slightly-revised 22-question survey. Among the two survey instruments, 16 questions occurred in both Phase 1 and Phase 2. The remainder of the codebook outlines the responses to the combined set of 21 questions that occurred between Phases 1 and 2 of the eviction proceedings observed.

This was a unique moment in Shelby County General Sessions. The courts had recently opened following the end of the federal eviction moratoria. The Emergency Rental Assistance programming (ERAP) provided limited legal representation to tenants and provided rent relief. These data do not reflect a snapshot of typical eviction proceedings in Shelby County, as these programs no longer exist in this way.

Review of Summary Statistics
During the data quality assurance and quality control process, a preliminary review of summary statistics was conducted on this
novel dataset, a few key statistics are below. These are strictly averages of the data and do not reflect an “analysis” but were conducted to ensure data quality.

Landlords had professional legal representation 90.8% of the time. Tenants had professional legal representation 4.6% of the time, over 3/4 of which was provided by public or philanthropic programs that no longer exist in that same way. Finally, 81.7% of eviction hearings lasted less than 1 minute, and 95.1% of cases lasted less than 2 minutes.

Sharing Courtwatch Data
To the research team’s knowledge, this is the most robust court watch ever conducted in Shelby County. Therefore, it is a goal of Innovate Memphis and its research partners to share the raw court watch data collected during this project. There are over 4,000 cases of data here that collect over 20 data points for each court case. Therefore, these data gives researchers and the public the ability to assess the extent to which pandemic-era programs changed practices and outcomes in eviction court.

There are two main components of the court watch data

  1. The Project Outreach Liason (POL) Dataset – These are the data collected by our court watchers, during the project. It includes a codebook of each question in the court watch survey, as well as a comparison between questions asked in “Phase 1” versus “Phase 2” of the project, when the research team added additional questions to the survey.
  2. Metadata Document for POL Dataset – In addition to the dataset itself and the codebook, the research team also created a metadata document that hopefully answers any other questions someone would have before digging into these data.

Any questions or comments about the data release can be directed to info@innovatememphis.com or to Innovate Memphis’ Senior Research Fellow, Austin Harrison (harrisona@rhodes.edu).

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