AAGLA Executive Director Message: Fairness is What Justice Really Is
Fairness is what justice really is.
Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
We won! Yes, we did.
So what’s all of this mean. Well, “hold your horses” for just a moment. Victory, yes but in our case against the County of Los Angeles only. That’s right, just County of Los Angeles. Our lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles over its eviction moratorium continues and remains outstanding, and is completely separate and not impacted by the judgement in our Los Angeles County lawsuit, nor are any other eviction moratoriums at state, other county or local jurisdictional levels being impacted…yet!
As many of you know, I am a recovering Certified Public Accountant and not an attorney. I’m just a guy that hires smart attorneys to work for me. So, please take my explanation, my non-legally trained description of what “we got” vis-à-vis our Federal District Court ruling. So, here’s what “went down.” A Federal judge ruled in our favor on our motion we filed seeking a preliminary injunction. In granting (agreeing with) our motion, the judge found that if we continued to pursue our case and bring evidence and have a series of court hearings, that we would have more than likely prevailed and won our case.
You see, the judge found that the Los Angeles County eviction moratorium ordinance was “unconstitutionally vague” and in his ruling, the judge cited numerous examples of defined terms that were left undefined, and references to sections that did not exist or could not be cross-referenced, and therefore, a great deal of the language was so vague that landlords trying to interpret exactly what rights they’ve been given would have to throw themselves at the mercy of the courts where only judges could attempt to interpret the meaning of the ordinance, and in doing so, these judicial interpretations could vary. What a mess! This situation is worse than figuring out my wife’s checkbook, really! And Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was once a law professor – she probably never actually read the ordinance herself.
So, many of you asked – Are we done? Well, not quite. First of all, the judge ordered Los Angeles County to cease enforcement of its eviction moratorium as of December 1, 2022 – that’s 30 days before the County had already agreed to terminate the moratorium. I know, great we won, but a little too late you may be thinking. But wait, there’s more. Our plan is to go into Federal Court to seek a final judgement in this matter. Now the County may appeal and delay us all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is our intention to get a final judgement declaring the County’s ordinance unconstitutional. From there, it is up to property owners who may have lost money because of the County’s ordinance to seek recovery of their losses. Because we do not own rental property ourselves, we cannot file these lawsuits, but we can certainly open the door for you…and we will!
Now, there’s also the issue of all the other eviction moratorium ordinances, the dozens passed by smaller cities like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Culver City, etc., and bigger cities like Los Angeles and Long Beach. We would like to have our legal team evaluate some of these ordinances too to see if they too fall under the category of “unconstitutionally vague” and I am sure some of these will. Surely in a city like Santa Monica, following dozens of convoluted amendments made to its eviction moratorium over nearly three years must have significant issues. Time will tell and justice will be served.
Our amazing victory did not occur due to our efforts alone. We had help, including from our co-plaintiff, the Apartment Owners Association of California and their president Jeffrey Faller. We also received help from those of you who heeded our call for help, both financially through contributions to our Legal Fund (www.AAGLA.org/LegalFund) and by offering stories and evidence about how they’ve been hurt due to the imposition of the Los Angeles County eviction moratorium. Those of our members who generously contributed to the cost of the Los Angeles County and our many other lawsuits never called or emailed me to complain that the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles had not taken action or suggest a myriad of other lawsuits, they just gave unconditionally because they knew we are always backing them to preserve their property rights and fight against harmful regulations.
So, as we enjoy the December holidays with family and friends, keep in mind that we go into next year with at least one major “win,” hopefully more to follow in 2023. We at the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles are a relatively small organization that yields a great deal of influence and packs a powerful punch. We will always go to the “mat” for our members to see that justice is available to all.
Let me take this moment to wish each and every one of you a very happy and healthy holiday season. Let’s all work together and add more “W’s” this next year.