Jackson County 16th Circuit Court Judge J. Dale Youngs signed an Administrative Order on Monday, Jan. 11 to temporarily suspend issuing evictions through January 24, or until the order is amended or revised.
The order cited significant, and at times violent, social and political unrest, and the spread of COVID-19 within the court and the community.
The Court Administrator and Department of Civil Process were ordered to “temporarily suspend issuance of all writs of restitution in all actions filed under Chapters 534 and 535 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.”
The Court Administrator was also ordered to temporarily suspend the issuance of summons in all of these chapters in which 534 is Forcible Entry and Unlawful Detainer, and 535 is Landlord-Tenant Actions. Writs of restitution are documents that authorize the local law enforcement authority to schedule an eviction of the tenant.
All court proceedings in cases filed under these chapters are temporarily suspended through January 24, when the Administrative Order expires, as well as any court hearings currently scheduled between the dates. They will be reset at the discretion of the judicial officers presiding over them.
The provisions of Administrative Orders 2020-154 and 2020-211 will remain in effect, subject to the temporary provisions of Monday’s order.
This comes after KC Tenants, a tenants rights group, has consistently protested evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, interrupting both in person and virtual eviction proceedings, and block the courthouse entrances.
“Presiding Judge Youngs’ order is the Court’s admission that every eviction is an act of violence,” a statement from KC Tenants read. ” This admission and this action comes after months of organizing form KC Tenants and 11 days of sustained actions in our campaign for Zero Eviction January.”
On January 1, the group pledged to take at least one action each day toward preventing evictions throughout the month.
On Friday, Jan. 8, a tenant in Jackson County was shot after he pointed a firearm at deputies while an eviction was being served. This played a part in the judge’s decision to sign the order, citing safety of employees.
“The risks facing Civil Process Deputies serving writs of restitution were recently evidenced on January 8, 2021 when two deputies were confronted by an armed tenant on whom they were serving such a writ,” the order read.
Pursuant to Court policy, the deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave pending further investigation. The matter is being investigated by the Blue Springs Police Department.
While it was reported that the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office served the eviction, Sheriff Darryl Forté wrote on Twitter, “Contrary to what’s being reported @JCSheriffOffice deputies were not involved in a shooting in Blue Springs today. The sheriff’s office does not serve legal documents.”
KC Tenants cites 2,000 plus hearings and 800 plus evictions that the 16th Circuit Court has overseen since June of 2020, as well as evictions outside the court’s process as acts of violence against tenants. The group said this includes the unhoused population who has already been displaced during the pandemic and otherwise.
“We know that it is the people wielding our power to intervene in violent systems, who have moved the Court to take this step,” a statement from the group read. “KC Tenants will not rest until all our neighbors are securely housed.”
On Tuesday, KC Tenants will seek answers from the Jackson County Office of Civil Process, the office that executes evictions and oversees the Civil Process Deputies, on the armed agents of the Court who shot a tenant while trying to evict him on Friday.
“We demand answers and accountability for Friday’s shooting,” according to a KC Tenant press release. “We demand justice for tenants like Anthony Stinson, a tenant evicted by the Court last Wednesday. We will push for a full eviction moratorium, extended beyond January 24.”