Lawsuit Aims To Hold Courts Accountable For Eviction Moratorium Violations

Lawsuit Aims To Hold Courts Accountable For Eviction Moratorium Violations

2:10pm Nov 20, 2020
WFDD screengrab of the suit filed November 9, 2020, in Wake County Superior Court.

Legal Aid of North Carolina is suing some state and county court officials over uneven enforcement of a federal eviction moratorium by some counties.

The lawsuit aims to stop eviction proceedings that are in violation of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s directive, and of Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order No. 171, which was designed to strengthen the CDC moratorium and protect families at risk of eviction during the pandemic.

The suit specifically names Archie Smith, the clerk of Superior Court for Durham County, but also focuses on the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. In an email attached to the complaint — which was sent to all clerks of court in the state — the AOC says the orders essentially do nothing to change the eviction process.

Isaac Sturgill is head of the housing practice group for Legal Aid of NC. He says not following these orders is tantamount to breaking state and federal law, and there are penalties.

“Once a landlord receives the signed declaration from the tenant who’s claimed protection under the order, it’s a crime for the landlord to ask for a writ of possession — which is the lockout paperwork,” he says. “It seems like the clerks are just turning a blind eye to a federal crime, and a crime under Governor Cooper’s order.” 

The eviction moratorium was put into place to help slow the spread of COVID-19, as studies show that the risk of getting the virus is greatly increased if you have no place to live.

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