NEW ORLEANS – In a letter sent to the Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court today, a coalition of civil rights groups warned against restarting eviction proceedings and urged courts to take additional steps to protect vulnerable populations and ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noting that states like Arizona are not allowing evictions to proceed at all against people within vulnerable populations, the groups are asking for a stay of all evictions Louisiana courts until the local courts are certified as in compliance with the requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“These are not normal times and the constitutional demands of due process and the Americans with Disabilities Act require the courts to accommodate our sisters and brothers who are in vulnerable populations whether they be parties, court staff, lawyers or the judges themselves,” the letter states.
The specific accommodations outlined in the letter include:
- A stay of all evictions in courts of Louisiana until the local courts are certified as in compliance with the requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and the Americans with Disabilities Act;
- For those people who are disabled as a result of being classified as members of vulnerable populations and thus ordered to shelter in place at home in the first two phases of reopening , any eviction action against them must be stayed until the courts can provide full video and audio access to all phases of the process;
- Once full video and audio access is provided, no eviction actions should be allowed to be initiated against any person with a disability without prior certification of attempts to engage in mediation or arbitration have occurred;
- Once full video and audio access is provided, specific written notice of the rights of people to be accommodated and how they can access those accommodations must be included as a part of all notices from landlords and from the courts;
- Once full video and audio access is provided, courts must take steps to provide access to technology for low income people with disabilities who may need to engage in an eviction proceeding remotely but may not have adequate technology to do so;
- Once full video and audio access is provided, continuances must be liberally granted to people with a disability so that they can do everything in their power to access the courts in a meaningful manner;
- Once full video and audio access is provided, if a judgment of eviction is ultimately rendered against a person with a disability that person must be given additional time and consideration before the eviction is actually executed in order to allow them to find additional housing.
The letter, which was signed by civil rights groups, fair housing advocates, as well as Loyola University law professors Davida Finger and William Quigley, is online here.