Under legal pressure, the rule-making arm of California’s court system, the largest in the United States, has rescinded its pandemic-related emergency order that blocked the state’s courts from hearing eviction proceedings.
Landlords in California and across the country have reportedly been hard hit by emergency eviction moratoriums and by the inability of some of their tenants to pay rent in the troubled economy.
The Judicial Council of California voted 19–1 to scuttle emergency rules governing evictions and judicial foreclosures imposed by the body on April 6.
California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, who was appointed to her post in 2010 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, acknowledged in a statement that the council had overreached.
“The judicial branch cannot usurp the responsibility of the other two branches on a long-term basis to deal with the myriad impacts of the pandemic,” she said. “The duty of the judicial branch is to resolve disputes under the law and not to legislate. I urge our sister branches to act expeditiously to resolve this looming crisis.”
The Judicial Council of California acted after it was sued June 15 by two small landlords in the Kern County branch of the Superior Court of California.
The landlords argued that by initiating a ban on evictions, the Judicial Council undermined the state’s separation of powers and seized policymaking power from the legislature and governor to block landlords’ access to courts.
“Constitutional limitations on government are never more important than during an emergency,” said landlord lawyer Damien M. Schiff, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm headquartered in Sacramento, California.
“In this case, we challenged an eviction moratorium enacted not by the politically responsible branches of California’s government, but rather by the judiciary. Because it attempted to codify policy rather than merely regulate the practice of state courts, the rule exceeded the Judicial Council’s authority under the California Constitution. We are pleased not only that the Judicial Council has voted to rescind the rule, but also that the Council recognized” that its usurpation of legislative and executive powers to deal with the effects of the pandemic was improper.
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