KC Tenants, ACLU suing Jackson County circuit and judge David M. Byrn
The ACLU and ACLU of Missouri filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of KC Tenants on Wednesday, challenging the Jackson County Circuit Court and the presiding judge David M. Byrn.
They’re challenging the administrative order that claims to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide eviction moratorium, but still permits eviction cases to move forward in violation of it that very order. This puts hundreds of Missouri tenants at risk for eviction in violation of federal protections, according to a press release sent out by the ACLU.
The CDC issued the moratorium on Sept. 4. It prohibits and halts all stages of evictions for tenants who submit a declaration confirming they meet the “income eligibility requirements, are unable to pay full rent due to income loss or medical expenses, have sought government rental assistance, are likely to become homeless or move into shared housing if evicted, and promise to make partial payments when possible.”
The Circuit Court’s order allows landlords to ignore the CDC and proceed with evicting tenants and challenging their declarations in a majority of eviction cases in Jackson County.
“Every tenant deserves the right to safe, accessible housing. The Jackson County courts are allowing landlords to strip tenants of that right by evicting them in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis,” Tara Raghuveer, director of KC Tenants says. It’s inhumane and unconstitutional. We will continue to organize and fight back to ensure all Jackson County tenants have access to the safe, stable housing they deserve.”
“Evictions are an act of violence. Every tenant deserves the right to safe, accessible housing. The Jackson County courts are complicit in this violence, allowing landlords to evict tenants in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis,” Tiana Caldwell, a leader with KC Tenants said. “We will continue doing our part, making sure tenants know their rights and building power to ensure that we all have access to the safe, stable housing we deserve.”
Evictions impact people of color, particularly Black women, the most. It has long term consequences that further systemic inequalities in housing and education, making women more vulnerable to domestic and sexual abuse.
The ACLU Women’s Rights Project and Data Analytics team found that, on average, Black women renters had evictions filed against them by landlords at double the rate of white renters (or higher) in 17 of 36 states.
“The order from the federal government is clear: People should not be put out of their homes during a global pandemic,” Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project said. “Evictions will disproportionately harm communities of color, and particularly women of color. All residents should have access to safe and stable housing throughout the course of this ongoing public health crisis.”
“It was a relief when the CDC halted evictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 by allowing people to self-isolate, keep social distance, and avoid homelessness,” Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri said. “It is disheartening that the Kansas City courts are flaunting the federal government’s directive even knowing it will have an especially harsh impact on communities of color, particularly women of color.”
The full complaint can be found here.