Andrew Wimer
Andrew Wimer · September 14, 2023

PHOENIX—Over 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. But getting courts to address whether the city can constitutionally evict them from their homes has been no easy task. Now, for a second time in less than a year, the Arizona Supreme Court has directed lower courts to carefully consider the case rather than dismiss it out of hand.

For years, Amanda and the Montgomerys have 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.

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.

“Sierra Vista’s attempt to kick people out of their own homes in the name of zoning demonstrates how zoning makes housing more expensive by threatening property rights,” said Paul Avelar, managing attorney of IJ’s Arizona office. “The threat to our clients’ homes still hangs over them and we look forward to getting them their day in court to protect their homes and their rights.”

The suit was dismissed by the superior court on the ground that they could not yet 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. In January, the Supreme Court overturned the appeals court’s decision and asked the judges to reconsider the case in light of another recent victory by IJ.

But the appeals court again dismissed the case, and IJ again appealed to the Supreme Court. The new order revives the case and sends it back to the trial court in Cochise County with specific instructions.

The Institute for Justice is the nation’s leading advocate for private property rights. It has challenged zoning rules that make people homeless, prohibit moderately sized homes to drive up costs, and discriminate against charitable organizations even when they comply with the law.