Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court Tosses Out HUD "One Strike and You're Out" Eviction Policy 2/2/01

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On January 23rd, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that public housing officials cannot evict tenants merely because their guests or household members used drugs.

According to housing advocates, thousands of public housing tenants have been evicted for that reason since President Clinton announced the policy in 1996. Under Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations, tenants could be evicted if their guests or family members used drugs or committed drug-related crimes, even if the tenant was unaware of any illegal activity.

The case arose when four elderly tenants of the Oakland Housing Authority challenged the federal policy after receiving eviction notices:

  • Pearlie Rucker, 63, her mentally disabled daughter, two grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter were informed they would be evicted after the daughter was caught with cocaine three blocks away.
  • Willie Lee, 71, and Barbara Hill, 63, received eviction notices after their teenaged grandsons were caught smoking marijuana in an apartment complex garage.
  • Herman Walker, 75 and disabled, was given an eviction notice after his caretaker and the caretaker's guests were caught with cocaine.
A federal circuit court judge issued an order blocking the evictions in 1998, but a three-panel 9th Circuit panel later reinstated the evictions. The tenants appealed to the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where they won last week.

The ruling is binding only in the nine Western states covered by the 9th Circuit, but tenants' rights advocates expect it will shape court decisions across the land.

"This will have a substantial impact nationwide," Catherine Bishop, a staff attorney for the National Housing Law Project told the Los Angeles Times. "And hopefully, housing authorities will wake up and realize they cannot evict innocent tenants."

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Issue #171, 2/2/01 Drug Arrests on New Jersey Highways in Freefall in Wake of Racial Profiling Scandal | Sen. Dodd Introduces Bill to Suspend Certification Process, Supports Move Toward Multilateral Drug War Evaluation Mechanism | Interview: Sanho Tree on Colombia | And the Meaning of Traffic Is...? | Drug Testing Declines Among Private Employers, but Testing Industry is Ready to Fight | Drug Bills in the Virginia Legislature: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly | Decriminalization and Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in New Mexico Legislature | Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court Tosses Out HUD "One Strike and You're Out" Eviction Policy | Newsbrief: MS Sufferer Guilty in DC Medical Marijuana Case | The Reformer's Calendar: Portland, Philadelphia, New York, DC, SF, Minneapolis, St. Petersburg, Fort Bragg, Miami, Amsterdam, New Delhi | Editorial: Moving Forward with Open Eyes

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