City Evicts Domestic Violence Victim; She Sues It

ST. LOUIS (CN) – A St. Louis suburb’s nuisance ordinance “tramples on the rights of victims of domestic violence” by allowing the city to evict them, a woman claims in Federal Court.

Rosetta Watson sued the City of Maplewood, City Manager Martin Corcoran, Chief of Police Stephen Kruse and Director of Public Works and Assistant City Manager Anthony Traxler on Friday.

Maplewood’s nuisance ordinance allows the city to revoke a resident’s occupancy permit for unabated nuisances. Those nuisances include repeated calls to Maplewood police.

“Under Maplewood’s Nuisance Policy, nuisances include, for example: more than two incidents of domestic violence resulting in calls to the police within a 180-day period; more than two instances of acts prohibited by state or city law that have resulted in arrests within a 180-day period; and commission of acts prohibited by federal or state law which have resulted in felony-level arrests two or more times within 90 days,” the complaint states.

The ordinance makes no exception for victims of domestic violence, who rely on police protection. Once a nuisance is declared, residents could have their occupancy permits revoked for up to six months.

Maplewood, pop. 7,959, is 8 miles west of St. Louis. It is 76 percent white and 52 percent of its population is female, according to city-data.com. Its estimated median household income is $36,338, almost $14,000 below the Missouri average.

City Manager Corcoran did not return a call for comment Monday.

Watson, a black woman with disabilities, says she lost her home and was barred from living in Maplewood for six months, because she is a victim of domestic violence and made repeated calls for help to the Maplewood police.

She says in the 25-page complaint that police assistance is essential for domestic violence victims and that domestic violence is the primary cause of homelessness for women and their children. She is represented by Anthony Rother with the ACLU of Missouri, who did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

“The Nuisance Policy tramples on the rights of victims of domestic violence, the majority of whom are women, empowers abusers to act without fear of police intervention, and increases victims’ vulnerability to both homelessness and future violence by chilling their right to seek police assistance and banishing them from their homes and the entire city when they seek aid,” the complaint states.

It adds: “The Maplewood Nuisance Policy and its enforcement infringe on Ms. Watson’s right under the First Amendment to freedom of speech and to petition her government and disregard the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirements of equal protection, due process, and the right to travel. It also conflicts with and is preempted by the federal Violence Against Women Act.”

Watson seeks declaratory judgment that the nuisance ordinance is unconstitutional and punitive damages.

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