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Law students help fight against the blight in Memphis neighborhoods

“Those lawsuits are aimed at holding owners of these properties that are vacant, abandoned, badly neglected accountable."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The blight neighborhoods face continue to be one of the biggest issues many people face in Memphis.  Since 1996 members of the Klondike-Smokey City Community Development Corporation have been doing their part to help facilitate economic growth in North Memphis communities.

“I’m proud of Klondike, and Smokey City,”  says Klondike-Smokey City CDC member Quincy Morris.

Since she was a kid, Morris says her parents instilled a sense of pride when she was growing up in the Klondike neighborhood.

“ I could walk safely home from what used to be Klondike School,” says Morris.

Over the years however, Klondike began to change, with blight popping up all over the neighborhood.  Blight continues to be an issue impacting a lot of the Memphis community.

“When we have blight we have other issues, that’s when crime takes place, that’s when other issues with the community takes place, so we have to try and keep this stuff in order so that we don’t have those issues,” says Memphis Councilwoman Terri Dockery.

Dockery has been fighting to stop the issue of blight facing the city, and she’s not the only one.

The University of Memphis School of Law has now filed 25 new lawsuits against some of the abandoned properties in the Klondike and Smokey City neighborhoods.

“Those lawsuits are aimed at holding owners of these properties that are vacant, abandoned, badly neglected accountable,” says Danny Schaffzin, Neighborhood Preservation Clinic Co-Director.

The main people handling these new cases will be the law students at the University of Memphis in the Neighborhood Preservation Clinic.

The clinic was founded back in 2015, and has helped represent the city of Memphis in more than 1,000 public nuisance cases.

The latest 25 will be the first time the clinic has represented a non-profit organization to hold property owners accountable.

“Although we have supervision from our bosses, we’re the ones presenting the cases, we’re the ones doing all the work behind them,” says Hunter Martin, U of M Law Student.

Martin is participating in his second semester of the clinic, working to get these properties back up to code, and bring back the neighborhoods long-time Memphians remember.

“It’s an eyeopener, and it really makes it more real,” says Martin.

“And it gives the community an opportunity to see the law students have concerns about the neighborhood,” says Morris.

“Each community can pretty much take care of themselves.  If you give them the resources, a little love, support, you give it to them, they can take care of themselves,” says Councilwoman Dockery.

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