Landlords sue California over eviction ban

Lawsuit accuses California Judicial Council of overreaching

Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Credit: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Credit: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

Two landlords have filed a lawsuit against the California Judicial Council, the state court’s rulemaking body, hoping to end the state’s eviction suspension amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The rule creates the perverse incentive for all tenants, whether they face financial hardship or not, to refuse to pay their rent during the crisis,” reads the lawsuit filed by the libertarian leaning Pacific Legal Foundation. “And it immunizes from eviction tenants who create nuisances, damage property, conduct illegal activity, or violate lease terms.”

The lawsuit filed in Kern County Court on Monday is the latest escalation in California residential landlords’ fight against state and local government, to say nothing of tenants and mortgage lenders. It comes one week after the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles trade group filed a complaint against the city of Los Angeles’s eviction moratorium.

In April, the Judicial Council, led by California Supreme Court Justice Tani-Cantil Sakauye, told state courts to not process residential and commercial eviction motions landlords file until 90 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifts California’s state of emergency order.

The Judicial Council met last week to revisit the eviction suspension, but did not vote on scrapping the rule.

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The lawsuit says the order abuses California’s separation of powers. “The Judicial Council made a classic policy decision that is properly the legislature’s domain, not the Judicial Council’s,” the lawsuit reads.

The landlords who sued, Peggy Christensen of Mojave and Peter Martin of Arcata in Humboldt County, are described as saddled by problem tenants.

Martin, for example, called on Humboldt County court to evict a tenant for “disturbing the other tenants by engaging in unlawful drug activities on the premises”

But the court “refused to issue a summons” due to the emergency rule.

A Judicial Council spokesperson said the group does not comment on pending litigation. The Council has not set a date on when it might reevaluate the eviction ban.