MANCHESTER, NH – Elliott Berry, who has been one of the most prominent anti-poverty advocates in New Hampshire for nearly 50 years and the architect of many of its legal protections for tenants, has announced his retirement, effective October 31, 2022. Berry has been an attorney at NH Legal Assistance (NHLA) for his entire career.
Berry joined NHLA as a VISTA volunteer in 1975, after graduating from Boston College Law School. His stipend at the time was in the neighborhood of $4,000.
“I never had an interest in going to a for-profit law firm. The truth is, I’m not fascinated by the law. I’m motivated by what I can do with the law for people who have extremely limited power and resources. The opportunities to do this in New Hampshire were quite limited for a non-profit lawyer. So here I am, and here I stayed,” Berry said.
During his tenure, Berry worked on thousands of cases for individual clients, as well as numerous appeals and class action cases. He handled a series of successful cases in the 1990s challenging municipal zoning restrictions that precluded development of housing for low- and moderate-income families. He was also instrumental in NHLA’s representation of people incarcerated in state prison, resulting in greater access to rehabilitative programs and mental health care for both men and women, and the construction in the 2010s of a new prison facility for women in Concord.
“Those are the pieces of litigation that stand out in my mind as quite meaningful to me,” Berry said. “But every time I prevent a family from getting tossed out of subsidized housing, knowing they could not possibly afford rent that is not subsidized, that is also incredibly meaningful, every time.”
Beyond the courtroom, Berry has been a fixture at the New Hampshire Legislature, advocating for reforms that level the playing field for tenants and mobile home park residents, and improving access to housing for people with limited means.
He led NHLA’s unsuccessful lobbying efforts in the 1970s to limit allowable rent increases, as well as many successful campaigns to expand tenants’ rights, including codifying the need for good cause for evictions, enabling mobile home park residents to form cooperatives to purchase their parks, and working with other NHLA advocates to create an expedited procedure for tenants to contest illegal lockouts and utility disconnections.
Staff attorney Steve Tower will assume Berry’s role as Managing Attorney for the NHLA Manchester branch office. Tower joined NHLA in 2015, and his primary work is in housing, public benefits and utility justice.
“I can say with certainty that Steve will be a better manager than I ever was,” Berry said. “He works very well with people, truly cares about people, is curious and always eager to learn new stuff.”
Lauren Greenwald, a staff attorney in NHLA’s Portsmouth branch office, will assume the role of Housing Project Director. Greenwald joined NHLA in 2018, after 15 years as an attorney with the New Hampshire Public Defender.
“Lauren will do a spectacular job,” Berry said. “She’s fearless, incredibly compassionate and a really hard worker who can see the big picture, and she is something that I never was: incredibly well organized.”
“Elliott has been a mentor and friend to me since my first weeks at NHLA as a law student almost 20 years ago,” said NHLA Executive Director Sarah Mattson Dustin. “There are countless lawyers here in New Hampshire and around the country who count Elliott as one of their first and most important teachers.
“There is nobody in New Hampshire who understands housing law from the tenant perspective better than he does – in part because when it comes to state laws protecting tenants and mobile home park residents, Elliott wrote most of them. His lifelong commitment to legal aid work and his relentless pursuit of housing justice in New Hampshire is an inspiration to his colleagues every day. He ends his career in a New Hampshire that is better than the way he found it.”