This morning Superior Court Judge Ricardo Torres rejected a landlord's attempt to dismiss constitutional and civil rights claims in the crosscomplaint filed on behalf of five tenants of a HUD-subsidized housing complex, two tenant organizers and three tenant organizations.
The cross complaint was filed in response to a state lawsuit, L.A. Gardens vs Coalition for Economic Survival (BC 184443), filed by a landlord to stop tenant organizers from meeting with residents regarding conditions.
Judge Torres rejected all of the landlord's arguments and said at the morning hearing that tenants have a constitutional right to invite whomever they want into their own homes, and that tenant organizers who have been invited also have a constitutional right to meet in the homes of tenants who have invited them. These rights are guaranteed by California's constitutional protections of the right to privacy and to freedom of association.
The judge also said that the tenants and tenant organizers gave sufficient facts to show that the landlord had attempted to interfere with the tenants constitutionally-protected right of assembly and speech by enlisting the help of Los Angeles Police Department officers to stop them from meeting with people in their own homes. The judge said such actions, if proved, violate California's civil rights statute Civil Code ﾌ_ 52.1, the Bane Civil Rights Act, that prohibits threats, intimidation or coercion to prevent the exercise of protected rights.
Last week, in a related case, federal district judge Dickran Tevrizian rejected the landlord's bid to assess lowincome tenants with over $23,000 in attorneys fees allegedly incurred by the landlord in defending the tenants' federal civil rights suit. The tenants had voluntarily dismissed their civil rights claims and consolidated them in the alreadypending state court case that had been initiated by the landlord.
Last February, the ACLU of Southern California went to court on behalf of defendants in L.A. Gardens vs Coalitions for Economic Survival to stop the landlord of a HUD-subsidized building complex from restricting their right to meet with organizers to discuss building conditions. On February 20, Judge Torres denied a motion for a preliminary injunction sought by the landlord which would have restricted tenants from organizing to improve building conditions. The ACLU filed a cross-complaint in this case to reveal the true reasons for the landlord's lawsuit which the ACLU says is part of the landlord's campaign to harass and intimidate tenants so they will cease efforts to take an active role in improving conditions in the HUD-subsidized complex, to ensure building safety and to establish a democratic mechanism of airing grievances.