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Lawsuits filed to protect tenant eviction rights

Saad Sr., sentenced

BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK)-The American Civil Liberties Union and Idaho Legal Aid Services have filed a lawsuit Monday against the state of Idaho to enforce tenants’ rights in eviction cases across the state.

According to ACLU, tenants have a right to a jury trial in eviction proceedings under the Idaho Constitution.  But, the 1996 Idaho Legislature amended the law to strip tenants of those rights. The lawsuit asks the court to declare that those amendments cannot supersede tenants’ rights to a trial.

“The right to a jury trial has been guaranteed to all Idahoans since before statehood,” said Howard Belodoff, Associate Director of Idaho Legal Aid Services. “Idaho Legal Aid helps tenants throughout the state who cannot afford a lawyer. Protecting the rights afforded by the Idaho Constitution through this new lawsuit benefits all Idahoans.”

The two organizations filed emergency “friend of the court” briefs last month in eviction cases across the state.  The briefs warned of “grave constitutional problems with re-starting eviction proceedings in closed courthouses during the global pandemic while a federal eviction moratorium remains in place.”

ACLU and Idaho Legal Aid Services said the federal CARES Act prohibits landlords and property management companies from evicting tenants from many homes and apartments when federal assistance is involved in the property. They say the Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued a legal opinion last year supporting the right to a jury trial in eviction cases.

Idaho Legal Aid is monitoring a Housing Hotline at 208-746-7541.  It is open from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

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