Due Process

The City Wants to Evict This Family Because a House Guest Committed a Crime They Didn't Know About Somewhere Else

Under its "crime-free housing program," Granite City, Illinois, holds tenants strictly liable for illegal activity by a household member.

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Last fall and winter, Jessica Barron and Kenny Wylie let one of their teenaged son's friends, who described himself as homeless, stay at their house in Granite City, Illinois. At first the teenager, Jason Lynch, slept at the house intermittently; later, as the weather got colder, he often was there several nights a week. Barron and Wylie's reward for that act of kindness, if the city has its way, will be government-ordered eviction from their home.

After Lynch broke into a local restaurant last May, the city invoked its "crime-free housing" ordinance, which demands eviction when "any member of lessee's household" commits a crime. In this case, the crime did not happen at the rental property, and Barron and Wylie did not participate in it, know about it ahead of time, or help Lynch evade the police afterward. In fact, Barron turned Lynch in after she found him hiding in her basement. But none of that matters under Granite City's ordinance, which holds tenants strictly liable for the crimes of household members, including temporary residents like Lynch.

"This effort to make an innocent family homeless violates the federal Constitution at a bedrock level," the Institute for Justice argues in a federal lawsuit it filed yesterday on behalf of Barron, Wylie, and their landlord, Bill Campbell, who does not want to evict them. The complaint says the crime-free housing ordinance violates their due process rights, the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, the Fifth Amendment's ban on taking property for "public use" without "just compensation," and freedom of association, which is protected by the First Amendment.

Barron and Wylie, who have three teenaged children, have been living in the house at 1632 Maple Street in Granite City for two years. They had planned to buy it eventually under a rent-to-own contract with Campbell. But the city is demanding that he abrogate that contract and threatening to revoke his rental license if he fails to do so. One police officer even threatened to arrest Campbell, although it's not clear what the charge would be.

If Barron and Wylie are evicted, they will lose their property interest in the home and will have to find somewhere else where they and their children can live, which may be difficult in light of the eviction. "They do not own or rent any other property," the complaint says. "If they are kicked out of their home, they are not sure where they would go. They do not have the resources to immediately rent another property. They would likely need to rely on charity from family to avoid rendering themselves and their children homeless."

Campbell, meanwhile, considers Barron and Wylie good tenants, is happy with their arrangement, and would like it to continue. If the city forces him to evict them, that process will cost money, as will the effort to find new tenants, and he will lose rental income in the meantime.

Given these costs, the Institute for Justice argues, Granite City is depriving Barron, Wylie, and Campbell of their property without due process or just compensation. The lawsuit also describes three equal protection violations: The city is arbitrarily treating residents who have rent-to-own contracts differently from residents who have mortgages or own their homes outright; arbitrarily treating Campbell differently from all the other landlords in Granite City, who unlike him are free to accept Barron and Wylie as tenants; and arbitrarily treating Barron and Wylie differently from "everyone else in the world (except for Jason Lynch)," who, like the couple, "have no responsibility for Jason Lynch's crime." These distinctions cannot survive "any level of scrutiny," the complaint says.

The attempted eviction also implicates freedom of association, I.J. argues. "The only reason that Granite City is trying to force Jessica and Kenny out of their home is that they allowed Jason Lynch to stay there," the complaint says. "Allowing a teenager to stay in your home to shelter him from the cold is a form of association. Punishing Jessica and Kenny for crimes committed by Jason Lynch is punishing them for their decision to associate with Jason Lynch."

In 2002 the Supreme Court upheld a "one strike" public housing policy under which  tenants were evicted based on drug-related activity involving a household member, even if the lessees were not involved in it and did not know about it. But that was a situation where the government was "acting as a landlord of property that it owns, invoking a clause in a lease to which respondents have agreed and which Congress has expressly required." Here the government is trying to force eviction over the objections of a private landlord.

"No one should be punished for a crime someone else committed," says I.J. senior attorney Robert McNamara. "That simple notion is at the heart of our criminal justice system—that we are all innocent until proven guilty. And yet Granite City is punishing an innocent family for a crime committed by someone they barely knew."

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  1. Sounds to me like they should be counting their blessings that they didn’t have a flashbang land in their kid’s bed or die in a hail of gunfire.

    1. this.

      1. ^^^This^^^^

        and

        ^^^Thiks^^^^^^^^

  2. I’m consistently impressed by IJ. Let’s hope they keep it up.

    1. Please donate, if you don’t already. I’m going to throw another Ullyses S. Grant their way soon.

      1. I do.

          1. Me too. Our liberty depends on holding the political class accountable, and not giving them our liberty because they’ll take it.

      2. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll send ’em some dough! Keep up the good work, IJ!

  3. “Government” is just a word for imposing collective punishment together.

    1. The ultimate HOA.

      1. COTDAMMIT

  4. Since when has freedom of association been protected by the 1st amendment? Has any court ever found that to be the case? If so, why hasn’t nearly every regulation, everywhere, at every level of government been deemed unconstitutional?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see an amendment that protects freedom of association. I wish it had been spelled out explicitly in the 1A. But it wasn’t.

    1. It’s not spelled out, but it sounds like that might fall under peaceable assembly.

      1. Tell that to whites who want to associate in Charlottesville.
        Tell that to Christian charities who want to associate with pro-life women.

        1. Tell that to me and my friends 35 years ago hanging out on a corner. I didn’t say the 1A was properly respected.

          1. Tell that to the guy in AZ who wanted to give free haircuts to homeless dudes.

            1. Tell that to the Mesa police officer that wanted to associate the bullets from his rifle with the innocent man lying on the floor of the hotel hallway.

        2. Tell that to ISIL/Daesh.

          Those who want to force women into sexual slavery by making them incubators against their will, should be hunted with drones.

          Repeating the incantation that “Life begins at conception” doesn’t make them pro-life – it’s makes them the Taliban.

    2. The 1960s civil rights and “equal opportunity” laws killed freedom of association. It does not exist now.

    3. @Some guy. This is the Scotus Case that said freedom of association is an essential part of the Freedom Of Speech. NAACP v. ALABAMA 1958.

      While the United States Constitution’s First Amendment identifies the rights to assemble and to petition the government, the text of the First Amendment does not make specific mention of a right to association. Nevertheless, the United States Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Alabama (1958) that freedom of association is an essential part of freedom of speech because, in many cases, people can engage in effective speech only when they join with others.[4]

  5. I’m shocked that the city stopped at trying to evict the lessees instead of trying to take the house from the landlord as well.

    1. Some landlords may have the money to fight back. Renters are less likely. And since fighting the eviction would be a landlord-tenant issue (if it weren’t for IJ) the government is cool with it.

    2. Should probably grab the tenant’s 529s and anything else not locked down while they’re at it.

  6. Barron turned in Lynch. More proof that all contact with law enforcement should be avoided even if it is believed to be benevolent.

  7. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch,
    I guess.

  8. Under collective punishment, I think that EVERYONE in Granite City, Illinois… Or maybe the entire State of Illinois?… Should be evicted, for the sins of Jason Lynch!!! THE MORE PUNISHMENT, THE BETTER!!! THE MORE PUNISHMENT, THE MORE JUSTICE!!!

    ALL of the conservative commentors here at Reason.com KNOW this; where are they on stuff like this?!!?

    1. That is cruel and unusual punishment, SQRLSY. Isn’t living in Illinois punishment enough? Does your lust for vengeance know no bounds?

      1. “Isn’t living in Illinois punishment enough? ”

        Ya got me fair and square on that one!!! LOL, for real!!!

      2. So then being evicted from Illinois isn’t a punishment at all, let alone
        a cruel and unusual one, it’s actually a reward

      3. I live in Illinois. Every night I pray for the sweet release that eviction would bring.

    2. call for an exterminatus on the planet, just to be safe. God will recognize his own!

  9. The law itself is stupid. The fact that it only applies to renters, but not to serial bank robbers that own their own home shows that it’s also fucking stupid. And discriminatory.

  10. context should be provided on what a shithole Granite City is outside of its stupid laws.

    1. From wiki – Granite City is a city in Madison County, Illinois, United States, within the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area.

      So take Trump’s description of Baltimore, and change the name of the city.

      1. So take Trump’s description of Baltimore, and change the name of the city.

        At least it’s not a shit hole.

      2. oh yeah GC is the dregs of those Illinois hicks who think they fall under the shade of STL … which has enough problems w/its Missouri hicks

      3. East St Louis is the shit hole of shit holes.

      4. Actually Granite City is highly industrial. More like a gigantic steel mill than a Baltimore ghetto. Kinda surprised to hear that anybody actually lives there.

    2. Yes. Truly a shithole country

  11. “One police officer even threatened to arrest Campbell, although it’s not clear what the charge would be.”

    Felony failure to grovel – – – – – –

    1. Hey, good people he was renting to let someone else who committed a crime stay there before he committed said crime. The landlord was obviously aiding and abetting a known fugitive.

    2. Failure to disappear.

  12. So if someone gets a speeding ticket they can force an eviction?

    1. Well, they can take your car…

  13. So the city gov’t can insert itself into a private rental contract because someone who claims that address as a home commits a crime?
    I can’t imagine how far that sort of foolishness could leak to other private contracts, but it probably spreads pretty far.

  14. Sounds like homeowners could use a section 230 of their own.

  15. Say the landlord evicts the family. It won’t be hard to find a new renter, he already knows a family who just got evicted and need a place. And the landlord himself can give this family a good reference. What’s the problem? He followed the letter of the law and evicted the family, the law merely says “get out”, it doesn’t add “and stay out”.

    1. Hmmmm. What are the stipulations on writing up a new contract with the same family?

      1. The more I thought about this, the crazier is sounds. They want the landlord to evict these people. What part of the rental contract was violated and not corrected?

        Assuming the family is evicted for reasons, can they rent someplace else in town? How soon can they do business again with the landlord? How about a different unit from the same landlord? Just write up a new contract?

        It’s kind of an ingenious move by the local political hacks.
        No way this is going to make it through court, but they are “doing something” and get someone else pays the legal bills.

        1. There are two parts to the ordinance.

          (1) A mandate that a landlord evict someone under certain conditions. That really doesn’t make sense.

          (2) Making a household with a criminal member subject to eviction.

          Sullum believes that (2) violates due process, but it really does not. It’s perfectly reasonable for a private landlord to make the lease conditional on all household members being law abiding citizens.

          What’s weird about the law is (1); you can’t really force a landlord to evict someone.

      2. So evict them for one day, and start a new contract. They don’t have to move their stuff.

  16. I assumed this was some sort of law and order public housing bullshit. This is a privately owned rental?

    Break out the wood chippers.

  17. Granite City is just taking a page from the Israeli rulebook. If your kid throws a rock at the IDF, your house gets bulldozed. Hey look, new land for settlements!

    1. There’s a scumbag anti-semite who shows up here name of Misek. You and he probably have a lot to talk about.

      1. Equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is the last resort of the desperate neocon.

      2. And you’re just a scumbag.

        Anti-Semite is the textbook version of racist.

  18. What if the landlord says “no”? Does the city take away his ‘landlord license’?

  19. GEEZE! Never underestimate the stupidity of those in power.

  20. Truly a bizarre statute that says, not that the lessees are unfit to lease anywhere in the jurisdiction, but just that they have to move out of where they are, yet are free to move in to some other rental.

  21. Barron and Wylie’s reward for that act of kindness, if the city has its way, will be government-ordered eviction from their home.

    While this particular ordinance may or may not be a good ordinance, I don’t see anything wrong in principle with holding a household responsible for the actions of its members. When you make people part of your household, you have to do the due diligence to make sure that you can do this legally; there are many reasons you may not be able to.

  22. Can’t the police just shoot their dog and call it even?

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  24. “This effort to make an innocent family homeless violates the federal Constitution at a bedrock level,” the Institute for Justice argues

    Welcome to the inevitable result of decades of Conservatives’ agitprop, demagoguery, and BS when it come to their failed “Law and Order” policies.

    But good to see that some with the regressive Conservative mutation responsible for an overly large amygdala (responsible for the irrational and unfounded fear of “Those People”) blindly stumble towards Liberalism.

    Welcome to what the raving lunatics disparagingly call “Socialism.”

  25. So their crimes prevent them from living in that particular house? Can they rent the house next door? Can they rent from the same landlord? What’s the point of kicking these evildoers out of one house only to have them rent another on the same street or in the same county. It’s clear that they must be evicted from the U. S. to keep us all safe.

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