The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a federal lawsuit against Norristown on Wednesday over the municipality's "Three Strikes" ordinance aimed at landlords whose tenants are the source of repeated police calls for "disorderly conduct or other activities that disturb or threaten the neighborhood."
The ACLU charges that the ordinance is unconstitutional and "punishes innocent tenants and their landlords for requesting police assistance."
The case was filed on behalf of a Norristown resident, Lakisha Briggs, a victim of domestic violence who the ACLU says faced eviction for calling police when she was being attacked by her abusive ex-boyfriend.
The municipality issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
The Municipality of Norristown has become aware that a lawsuit has been filed in Federal Court against the Municipality and several of its past and present officials by a resident, Lakisha Briggs. At this time, neither the Municipality, nor any of the individual defendants, have been served with the complaint, thus it is impossible to comment specifically on its content.
However, the Municipality understands that the lawsuit attacks both a provision of the Municipality’s Rental License Ordinance that was repealed by Municipal Council in 2012, and a new ordinance that was enacted by Council that made numerous revisions to the repealed provision. The new provisions of the Municipality’s Rental License Ordinance reflect the Municipality’s attempt to require landlords to assist in attempting to reduce incidences of disorderly behavior caused by tenants in the Municipality, which adversely affect the law-abiding citizens of Norristown.
The ordinance provision currently in effect contains all of the constitutional due process provisions required to protect the residents of Norristown, explicitly stating that no property shall be condemned for any reason under Norristown’s property maintenance code based on occurrences of disorderly behavior, and stating that no tenant shall be evicted or forced to vacate a rental dwelling for violation of the ordinance provision.
The ordinance provision allegedly being attacked by the lawsuit does not, in any way, discriminate against any persons, nor does it punish victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence is abhorrent to society, and the Norristown Police Department remains constantly vigilant for those crimes. Until the lawsuit is served and reviewed by legal counsel, Norristown cannot respond to specific allegations.
Robert Glisson, Interim Municipal Administrator
Read more about the lawsuit, the "Three Strikes" ordinance and download a full copy of the ACLU's complaint here.
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