Booted out in snowstorm: State evicts blind man with paid-up lease

By Bob Unruh

A lawsuit has been filed against the state of Delaware and multiple individuals for evicting a blind man and his two dependent daughters from their rented home, for which they had a paid-up, current lease.

“As this case makes clear, justice in America makes less sense with each passing day,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which brought the action against the state, Justice of the Peace Alan Davis, Constable Jaman Brison, Constable Hugh Craig, Constable Gerardo Hernandez and Kenneth Stanford.

“With every ruling handed down, it becomes more apparent that we live in an age of hollow justice, with government courts, largely lacking in vision and scope, rendering narrow rulings focused on the letter of the law. This is true at all levels of the judiciary, where the courts have become fixated on upholding government order and siding with government agents rather than with safeguarding the rights enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.

The complaint seeks a ruling that the “evict first, ask questions later” practice be declared a violation of the Constitution and be banned.

The case is on behalf of William Murphy, individually and as guardian of A.T. and K.M., as well as Tanisha Murphy.

The institute explained, “Police, acting on incorrect information, rejected their attempts to prove the legitimacy of their tenancy and forced them out of their rented home, despite the family having a valid lease, being current in their rent and never having received any notice that they might be in danger of losing their home.

“William Murphy, a blind, 52-year old African-American widower, is the sole caregiver for his two daughters, aged 17 and 11. After losing his job in Maryland, Murphy moved to Wilmington, Del., in order to find work. He found a 775-square foot rowhouse to rent for $700 per month and was to receive rental assistance from the local social services department. However, the landlord allegedly raised the rent to $750, required that a family member co-sign the lease, and expressed reluctance to rent the property to Murphy because he was blind and supporting two children.”

The institute said Murphy and his daughters eventually moved into the home on Nov. 17, 2020.

“In early February 2021, the landlord allegedly shut off the water and electricity to the home in violation of state law. On the morning of February 10, during a bitterly cold snowstorm, police arrived at the Murphy home, ordered them to vacate the premises, and gave the family 30 minutes to collect their belongings and leave.”

According to the complaint: “At its core, this is a simple case. Without any notice or opportunity to be heard, state actors knocked on the door of Plaintiff’s home and threw a blind man with no financial resources, and his two young daughters, out of their home in the midst of a winter snowstorm and weather advisory, in the middle of a once in a lifetime pandemic and all despite well known eviction moratoriums under both federal and state law. The man had a signed, enforceable lease, and other written, state issued documentation demonstrating that this house was, in fact, his home. He provided the three State Constables with these documents but they were of no moment to them as they enforced an ongoing, unconstitutional State Court practice or policy of “evict first, ask questions later.'”

The filing explained Murphy had moved for several reasons, including that he had been offered a job with Amazon, which later declined to accommodate his disability and left him without work.

It also notes Murphy’s water and power were shut off even though he had paid rent. Finally, the officers showed up with an eviction notice in the name of a woman who apparently was a previous tenant.

Instead of resolving the problem, they threw out Murphy and his family.

It took several days, but a judge quickly ruled the eviction was illegal. Murphy was given the option, chose to cancel the rest of the lease and find another accommodations. The lawsuit then followed.

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