I’ve been thinking about and blogging about the problem with the Arizona Justice Courts for some time, about the unbelievable deprivation of due process for tenants in eviction actions, and I think it’s time to do something about it. This is a constitutional issue of statewide importance and I think a federal court action needs to be filed, not one for money damages but for injunctive relief to reform the Justice Court system. I’m thinking a stay should be requested on all evictions in Arizona pending the outcome of the case. I have the right plaintiff: she’s smart and sophisticated, she has a law degree but is not licensed in Arizona, and she was just subject to the very kind of due process abuses I’ve been writing about (in fact, she was the inspiration for some of my blogs). Because of her background and training (and her passion) she’s been able to perfect appeals and also file a Special Action at the Superior Court which have kept her in her apartment (no mean feat, and at a far greater expense than just the rent). But after months of litigation, she hasn’t gotten any further in obtaining any kind of relief through the state court process in her landlord’s underlying action, nor any change in the way Justice Courts do business. The whole process needs to be turned up a notch.
Connie is willing to use hers as the lead case for reforming the Justice Court system. This is the right case to establish a precedent: the tenant is in the right, the issues are ripe, the plaintiff is competent and ready to go, and the lower court remedies have already been tried. It’s not likely that this same coalescence of issues and talent will come together in the near future. We need to do this now. But I need a pro bono attorney to help her, someone who has the passion and the balls to take on the state – and the license to practice in federal court. Does anyone out there know of such a person or organization?
I don’t know why the Justice Court JPs rule as they do. Are they just incompetent or are they trained to disregard due process for tenants? On one hand, JPs are elected, so it’s very political. But on the other hand, I’ve seen JPs have to look up simple eviction rules in the rare instances when a tenant makes it far enough for the merits of his case to be heard. I’ve thought in the past about running a tenant union member for JP because JPs don’t have to be lawyers (and many aren’t). But for now, I think legal action is what has to be taken.
The filing of a lawsuit could also generate huge and ongoing publicity, propelling issues involving tenants’ rights into the daylight. I’m serious about this. It’s time to take it up a notch. Please get in touch if you can help.