August 22, 2020
ArchCity Defenders Files Petition on Behalf of Veteran Facing an Eviction, Citing Due Process Concerns, and Asking for a Fair Day in Court
Last night in the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, ArchCity Defenders filed a Petition for Writ of Prohibition on behalf of Eddie Logan, a Veteran with chronic health conditions, who, despite conversations with his landlord and diligently representing himself on virtual and remote eviction proceedings, is set to lose his home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition outlines the multiple ways Mr. Logan attempted to defend himself without an attorney, faced several court roadblocks, and ended with the denial of his right to due process. Despite Mr. Logan’s efforts, the trial court entered a judgment against him for rent and awarded his landlord possession of the property. The petition filed yesterday asks the appellate court to set aside the eviction and provide Mr. Logan with an opportunity for a fair day in court.
“What we see in Mr. Logan’s case should trouble everyone in our community. He did everything he could to make sure he got his day in court and had an opportunity to tell his side of the story before losing his home,” said Lee Camp, Senior Staff Attorney at ArchCity Defenders. “Losing your home by a mere telephone call is no semblance of justice. That’s why we’ve asked the Missouri Court of Appeals to intervene in this emergency situation and to grant relief ensuring Mr. Logan’s constitutional rights are protected.”
For months, Mr. Logan asked his landlord to address the unsafe and unsanitary conditions in his home and the landlord failed to make necessary repairs. After withholding June rent, the property management company, E. Wright Investments Strategies, LLC, filed an eviction case against Mr. Logan in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court. Without an attorney, and in advance of his trial, Mr. Logan gathered multiple pieces of evidence, hand marked exhibits, and attempted to hand deliver the documents to the court on three separate occasions. Each time, he was denied the ability to submit evidence for his case. Mr. Logan, a man on a fixed, limited income, then sent the exhibits through certified mail in an attempt to provide the court with supporting evidence for his upcoming trial. On August 17, Mr. Logan and his wife tried to video call into the trial from their phones, but were unsuccessful. Mr. Logan then connected to the hearing via phone and, when it was clear his evidence had not been delivered, he asked Judge Neill for a continuance. The judge denied his request and entered the subsequent eviction judgment.
The Petition for Writ of Prohibition is online here.
Generally, Missouri’s eviction laws require a tenant in Mr. Logan’s situation to pursue a new trial before he is able to appeal the court’s decision. Unfortunately, Mr. Logan would have to move out of his home before that new trial could take place. By filing a petition for a writ of prohibition, a rarely filed action and remedy, Mr. Logan asks the appellate court to immediately review the trial judge’s action prior to Mr. Logan being forced to vacate his home.
Data from the Eviction Lab suggests that 633 people have had an eviction case filed against them in St. Louis City and County since March 15, 2020. From legal representation and court observations done by ArchCity Defenders at these hearings, it’s estimated that 80-90% of people do not have an attorney and are representing themselves pro se.
“The effort to move eviction hearings to a virtual forum is concerning, particularly when the courts have failed to implement even the most basic procedures to protect the rights of people appearing in those courts,” said John Bonacorsi, Skadden Fellow and Staff Attorney. “Mr. Logan’s case demonstrates that these hearings deny even the most dedicated and diligent pro se tenant the right to be heard.”
On August 6, after growing public pressure and conversations among public officials, presiding Judge Burlison of the 22nd Judicial Circuit, issued a temporary hold on evictions, meaning people could not be evicted from their homes by the Sheriff’s Department until the hold is lifted, which is currently set for September 2. Meanwhile, eviction cases have been filed and eviction judgments have been made, in effect, creating a backlog of people who are likely to be forced out of their homes with little to no support.
This filing follows pressure from statewide advocates calling for a moratorium on evictions throughout the state of Missouri. Since the rise of COVID-19, ArchCity Defenders’ holistic legal advocacy has focused on clients and communities further marginalized by the current crises. ACD’s housing advocacy has taken shape through direct representation, court observation, outreach to unhoused families, litigation, media and policy advocacy, and community collaboration with local and statewide tenants rights groups.
Z Gorley, ArchCity Defenders, Communications Director