ACLU sues Maplewood; similar suit filed in March

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Maplewood, challenging the city’s ‘chronic nuisance ordinance,’ which the organization says is unconstitutional, according to a press release dated April 7.

In March the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council filed a similar suit against Maplewood, saying the city’s nuisance ordinance effectively exiles households that have drawn two or more police calls — even if they’re the victims rather than perpetrators.

According to the ACLU, between September 2011 to February 2012, Rosetta Watson called the police several times after physical abuse by her former boyfriend at her Maplewood home. In one incident, he kicked open the front door and punched Watson in the face while she was in bed.

More than two calls to the police regarding domestic violence from the same address within a 180-day period is considered a nuisance under Maplewood’s policy and violators can be forced from their homes and banished from the city for six months.

The ACLU says that because of Maplewood’s law, Watson was forced to leave the home she had rented for two years. She moved to the city of St. Louis, where in July 2012, her former boyfriend broke in to her new home and stabbed her in the legs.

After losing her Maplewood home because she called the police for assistance, Watson decided not call law enforcement after she was stabbed in St. Louis. She took herself to the hospital, where she was treated. The hospital contacted the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which arrested her former boyfriend.  He pled guilty to domestic assault.

When asked for a response from the city of Maplewood, City Manager Marty Corcoran said, “We have not seen the lawsuit or been served. Until we have a chance to review the lawsuit we are unable to comment.”

Read the lawsuit.

20 thoughts on “ACLU sues Maplewood; similar suit filed in March

  1. The ordinance needs to be re written & clarified in domestic situations . We Do need a three strikes ordinance however . There are some very dangerous individuals in parts of our area. Anna ave has emergency calls often . State funding cuts to the mentally ill is also an issue . The Ryan Hummert tragedy can be an example when people in need are not watched . I’m not saying those with mental issues need to lose their housing . Just saying it is an issue as well .

  2. So the city should be responsible for psychological help now? Who will pay for this? And I guess now, the police officers will need a degree in psychology too.

  3. They seem to be “sue happy”……just get rid of the dumb law….and that will take care of it. Do they have to sue, in order to just get rid of it? Maybe so. But it is not a good thing….so fix it !

    • Sounds simple to get rid of the law, but my friend actually needed that to get a neighbor evicted. Someone in the apartment next to her and her children and he was a very scary, hostile person who frightened her and her kids terribly doing all kinds of horrible things like screaming, for absolutely no reason, often early in the morning or late at night, blasting music loudly, all hours, saying crazy things, acting drunk and on who knows what kinds of drugs, etc. Maplewood police tried talking to him, but he would never even have a conversation. He would slam the door and that was that. Many, many times. My poor friend and kids. Every time she complained to the landlord they didn’t do anything. But when she called the police they said this guy could be evicted after having a certain number of phone calls to the police and complaints by neighbors etc. go on record. Then they could evict him. And they did. By the way, he was white. So maybe the law has to be changed so that domestic violence victims get a fair chance, yes, certainly that is correct and fair, but for other situations, people who live near someone who SHOULD BE KICKED OUT have the right to live in a safe, quiet place. Three strikes and you are out or something like that!

      • I agree Jaressa O, they need to have someway to get rid of tenants that are a problem. The ordinance needs to be rewritten so that it isn’t so broad of vague. Everyone deserves a safe place to live.

      • I just don’t think kicking people out of our town solves the issue. Clearly your friends’ neighbor had issues. Were they solved by kicking him out of this neighborhood? No, he was simply sent somewhere else. If someone like that needs help, there should be ways to help. But simply kicking someone out to go live in another neighborhood does not solve the problem and it makes for an ordinance that can clearly be used to discriminate.

        • It certainly solved the problem for the neighbors of that man. Perhaps the ordinance could be re-written or improved but it is not the municipality’s responsibility to provide treatment and rehabilitation to every person who happens to rent here.

        • You might not have had interaction with our police nor city employees, but I have and I can say without a doubt that they are trained and they are very professional. They know how to deal with mental health issues because they are faced with them all the time. There are a lot of issues with people who have mental illness, substance problems, etc., and the police, firefighters, etc., are all very well trained to deal with this. In the case of my friend, outreach like mental health and some other social services were contacted to help but this guy knew his rights and he just refused help, refused to be agreeable. Let me ask you: where do you live? What kind of people live next door to you–are they quiet, do they keep to themselves, do any of them act in very suspicious ways, do any of them shout or scream, have fights, play very loud music at very odd hours, act like they are extremely, extremely agitated, scream insane and obscene things *OR* go to the bathroom while standing OUT side the front door in front of your young children? If any of these things had occurred right next to where you live, how would you feel and what would you do? If you are a saint, maybe you personally try to help the belligerent guy. But like most normal people, maybe you just want the law to deal with him, maybe you just want to live in peace and quiet and to feel that your kids are safe. A more comprehensive approach is a great idea, but small municipalities do not have the kind of resources to deal with these type of things. They do the best they can. They are not perfect. But they are not racist. The ordinance law was used to evict a white male. and MAPLEWOOD is racially and economically DIVERSE! People who think otherwise do not actually know what they are talking about.

  4. Interesting that city officials claim they are powerless to prevent certain business of which they don’t approve (like Twin Peaks) from leasing space and operating in the city, while this ordinance apparently allows the city to throw even homeowners out of their own homes for simply calling for help too many times.

    • I guess I missed where our “city officials” didn’t approve of Twin Peaks. If they didn’t approve on moral grounds, then it wouldn’t matter if our city’s zoning laws permit that business. I would like to add that they can’t throw a homeowner out of their home for being a nuisance but they could make your life hell with dragging you to court and fining you out the wazzoo. If you don’t pay the fine then they put a lien on your property and potentially put you in jail.

  5. I don’t live in maplewood but enjoy frequenting many of their stores and restaurants and I have to say, this ordinance is very upsetting to me. When you live in an area you should feel protected by your police department not afraid to call them out of fear of being thrown out of your home. Sadly, I’ve heard several negative stories about maplewood police officers. Not a good representation of the city!

    • Maplewood Police officers are very professional and well trained. They deal with domestic disputes frequently and they remain professional when dealing with them. People simply have only heard one side of this complaint and of course the police get the bad rep. People truly have to start to think, then think again–THINK about all sides of the story, not just the side you heard from, before jumping to conclusions. If you want perfection I have news for you, there is no such thing. If you want dedicated, professional police officers, who put their lives on the line whenever they answer the call to help you and me and everyone else, welcome to Maplewood.

      • I’ve been living in maplewood almost 20 years now and only had 1 bad interaction with a LEO. All the other countless times I engage with one for small talk or the few cases I’ve had to call, i’ve been met with nothing but respect and professionalism.

  6. I think the lawmakers of Maplewood need to seriously analyze this ordinance. This is the second group bringing a suit against our city. Clearly, there is a problem. Instead of consistently denying the issue, let’s change it! We shouldn’t have an ordinance that allows us to “banish” ANYONE from our city. We want to welcome everyone and help those that need help. Get rid of this ordinance.

    • I guess you wouldn’t mind paying for it out of your own pocket and compensating the good standing residents who have to put up or pay for chronic misbehavior and abuse? How many calls should the cops make before some kind of recompense or punishment is called for? Perhaps it needs to be a fine of some sort but there absolutely should be some deterrent to chronic abusers of the system.

  7. I suppose I don’t understand why her “boyfriend” isn’t in jail? I feel this ACLU group needs a different course of action.

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