ACLU sues Norristown for ‘penalizing domestic violence victims’

courts law
(Credit: Metro file photo)

American Civil Liberties Union chapter the ACLU of Pennsylvania on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit against the borough of Norristown for what they say is an unconstitutional municipal ordinance punishing tenants and landlords for repeated police responses to properties.

The legal challenge, which is also being argued by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton, LLP, was brought forth on behalf of domestic violence victim Lakisha Briggs, who was allegedly threatened with eviction after she requested police protection from her abusive ex-boyfriend.

According to the complaint, landlords are under Norristown law encouraged to evict tenants when police are called to a property three times in four months for “disorderly behavior.”

That includes responses to incidents of domestic violence, the ACLU said.

“When a city penalizes a woman for requesting help for domestic violence, the system is broken,” senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project Sandra Park said in a statement.

“Laws that stop tenants from calling the police are unconstitutional and can actually put lives at risk.”

After learning of the ordinance, Briggs became reluctant to call police during violent incidents – including one in which her ex-boyfriend attacked her with a brick – because she feared losing her apartment.

“I was shocked to find out that reaching out to the police for protection could instead lead to eviction for me and my family,” Briggs said in a statement.

“Nobody should have to fear losing their home when they call for help.”

During one particularly brutal attack in June 2012, Briggs’ ex-boyfriend allegedly bit and tore her lip, beat her in the head with a glass ashtray and stabbed her in the neck with broken glass.

Briggs still didn’t call police for fear of being evicted, according to the complaint, but neighbors contacted the authorities.

The suit states Briggs was airlifted to the nearest hospital due to the severity of her injuries, but the city of Norristown still threatened her with forcible removal from her home.

Briggs’ attorneys intervened and Norristown repealed the ordinance.

The city several weeks later enacted a second, virtually identical law.

Cites across the country have similar provisions on the books, according to the complaint.

Though Briggs has found alternate housing and secured an order of protection against her ex-boyfriend, she still lives in fear of requesting assistance and being evicted, especially because she’s mother to a 3-year-old daughter, according to the ACLU.

“Families struggling to escape from abuse should at least be able to rely on law enforcement to serve and protect them,” ACLU of Pennsylvania staff attorney Sara Rose said in a statement.

“No one should have to endure what Lakisha and her family went through.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Actor Tracy Morgan wasn't wearing seatbelt in June…

By Jonathan Stempel(Reuters) - Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and others in his limousine were not wearing seat belts when their vehicle was struck by…

National

Connected cars: Is AT&T leaving Verizon in its…

By Marina Lopes and Bernie WoodallWASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - Verizon Communications, the No.1 U.S. wireless carrier known for its widespread coverage, is falling behind its biggest…

Local

Grand jury begins hearing evidence in Eric Garner…

A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday relating to the death of Eric Garner while in police custody in July. Garner, 43, of Staten Island,…

Local

Mayor announces plan for solar panels at city…

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the planned installation of 24 new solar panels at city schools on Monday morning. The panels, a $28 million investment,…

Going Out

Taste what Lower Manhattan is cooking at today's…

The Lower Manhattan food scene has changed a lot in three years, which you can taste first hand when the neighborhood's food festival returns. On…

Television

Review: 'Selfie' tries to coast on the charm…

"Selfie" offers cute leads and some good jokes, but focuses too much on a vague distaste for social media.

Movies

Review: Jason Reitman's 'Men, Women & Children' is…

Jason Reitman's "Men, Women & Children" takes a hysterical and melodramatic look at disconnection in the digital age, turning strong actors into zombies.

Television

TV watch list, Monday, Sept. 29: 'Castle,' 'Mom'…

Tune in for the season premieres of "Castle," "Mom" and "NCIS: Los Angeles."

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

MLB

Joe Girardi not confident David Robertson will return…

David Robertson was as seamless as anyone could be replacing Mariano Rivera as he converted 39 saves, with a 3.08 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony preaches patience with new coach, offense

While star forward Carmelo Anthony said he’s “enthusiastic” and “optimistic” for the upcoming season, he still wants everyone — from within the locker room and…

Education

How to ace your private school interview

Getting ready for a private school interview can be daunting for many, most of whom might never have been in an interview situation before. We’ve…

Education

5 questions parents should ask while visiting private…

It can be hard to know what to look for when searching for a new school for your child. Parents considering several different schools can…

Education

3 ways to save money on college application…

With the average high school student applying to 5 or 6 schools, hefty application and test score fees can add up quickly. We’ve compiled some…

Education

Nap rooms: The latest college campus trend

College is a time filled with new experiences (and lots of schoolwork), leaving little time for students to get a good night’s rest. University of…