Written by Community Editor Nicole Foulke
Arguments in federal court will be held later this month in
Philadelphia in an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) test case suit
challenging the constitutionality of Norristown’s three strikes law that leaves
renters open to eviction should they call 911 three times in four months,
according to ABC News and the Associated Press.
The ACLU filed the suit earlier this year to test the waters on behalf of Lakisha Briggs, a Norristown woman and alleged victim of domestic violence, who let her alleged abusive ex-boyfriend move in with her instead of calling 911 because she feared that one more 911 call would mean eviction for her and her 3-year-old daughter.
Norristown’s three strikes law can also affect landlords, who can lose their rental licenses because of the law, under the interest of promoting safe neighborhoods.
"Every strike has a chilling effect on whether you're going to make that outreach (to police) ... and incur that strike," said Sandra Park, a lawyer from the ACLU’s Women's Rights Project in New York.
The ACLU has been observing similar laws in the US. Such laws can often be passed to lessen the prevalence of drugs or decreasing the number of nuisance calls to 911 lines.
"I felt like I was being punished for being assaulted," Briggs, a 34-year-old nursing assistant, said on Aug 30.
Norristown’s court brief indicates that law enforcement were called to Briggs' residence 10 times during the first five months of last year. Several of these incidences involved arguments with her the ex-boyfriend and her 21-year-old daughter. Police sometimes arrested them, according to the brief.
Robert DeDomenicis, the attorney representing Norristown in the case, declined to comment the week of Aug. 30.
Norristown said the borough attempted to help Briggs and her landlord, Darren Sudman, by allowing Briggs time to obtain a restraining order.
The ACLU suit claims that woman are inordinately affected by these laws, being that they are proportionately more often domestic violence victims, and that the federal Violence Against Women Act protects housing rights of women.
Norristown’s brief, indicated that the borough would give Sudman's rental license back to him and halt its action against Briggs from the pre-litigation period. The brief also indicated that the borough has not enforced the ordinance in 2013 while it under review by borough officials.