KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A circuit court judge has ordered the temporary suspension of evictions, among other writs created by the court, during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The order, signed on March 19 by Judge David Byrn, directed the court clerk to delay issuing writs of execution. Those writs include restitution, which evict people from their property, and writs of replevin, which mandate a return of property.
Circuit judge Dale Youngs, who is familiar with the order, said the it came after multiple days of trying to figure out how best to address the situation regarding ongoing cases, some already months old, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The court had already suspended cases of new judgments to minimize contact within the courthouse.
KC Tenants, an activist group that prompted the recent passage of a residential protection ordinance called the Tenants Bill of Rights, tweeted that their demand for the end of evictions in the city was the primary motivator behind the order.
“We organized a huge, swift response when we realized the Sheriff’s department was still executing evictions yesterday. We just won our demand that Jackson County, MO (sic) immediately STOP enforcing evictions,” the group said in the tweet.
Judge Youngs said the group had made their voice known to the court, but the order was not a result of any one group.
“We had heard from them among other folks about the issue, and of course, we were aware of it anyway,” Youngs said.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced a suspension of evictions on March 18. President Donald Trump also announced on the same day that he would direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to stop evictions on related properties. The Jackson County order came just a day later.
“That was the problem we had and one of the reasons we decided to… enter the order,” Youngs said in regard to Trump’s announcement.
He said those who serve writs are court employees who don’t have the information on if the selected properties they are addressing are related to HUD.
In response to the KC Tenants tweet and other requests for information, a news release from the Jackson County Circuit Court also said that writs are delivered by execution deputies with the court, not the sheriff’s office, as the tweet mentioned.
Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté confirmed that with FOX4, saying the idea that his office was serving evictions was bad information going around.
“The sheriff’s office has never done evictions,” Forté said. He explained that the Jackson County District Court civil process servers “are totally separate from us.”
Tara Raghuveer with KC Tenants said they did misstate the target of the actions in one tweet. However, she said all of the calls to action were correctly directed at the court.
She also said she was told by the court that there were six deputy sheriff’s out executing evictions on March 18.
“Specifically yesterday, we got a call from a tenant who had a deputy sheriff at her door and she was being evicted,” she said.
Other calls to action on social media were directed toward the circuit court and were “based off of the national momentum,” Raghuveerf said.
Youngs said the order staying evictions and other writs lasts a month.
“For the next 30 days, we’ll evaluate the situation,” Youngs said. “This situation changes hourly.”