PHOENIX—In a short order issued today, the Arizona Supreme Court revived a lawsuit filed by Sierra Vista residents who are at risk of losing their homes to a city law. Nealy two years ago, Amanda Root and Georgia and Grandy Montgomery—along with the Montgomerys’ landlord Al Parrish—filed a lawsuit with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to protect their property rights under the Arizona Constitution.
The suit was dismissed by the superior court on the grounds that they could not sue to protect their rights; instead, they had to wait for the city to sue them. And the appeals court ruled they could not even appeal that decision. The Supreme Court today overturned the appeals court decision and asked the judges to reconsider the case in light of another recent victory by IJ.
“Sierra Vista’s attempt to kick people out of their homes in the middle of the pandemic was cruel and unconstitutional,” said Paul Avelar, managing attorney of IJ’s Arizona office. “The threat of homelessness still hangs over our clients, and Arizona courts should not be indifferent to their property rights. That is why we are glad that the Arizona Supreme Court insisted their case must be considered.”
For years, Amanda and the Montgomerys lived in trailer homes, which the city deems RVs, that are on property that they respectively own and rent from Al Parrish. In July 2020, they received notices ordering them to move their homes within 30 days. The city did not claim that the homes were unsafe for their residents or a danger for the neighborhood. Rather, the city only claimed that the zoning code meant that these kinds of trailer homes could not be in this part of the neighborhood. The orders came without hearings, a procedure for appeal, or any court approvals. The lawsuit asserts that abusive zoning laws and failure to provide residents with due process before taking away their property rights are violations of the Arizona Constitution.
More broadly, restrictive zoning makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for people of modest means to live in modest homes. Amanda, Georgia and Grandy have affordable housing that allows them to live on their fixed incomes. The city is demanding that they leave simply because it says so and without regard to the fact that the residents do not have clear options for other housing.