Maplewood city responds to ACLU lawsuit

Maplewood City Hall responded Tuesday on Facebook to a lawsuit filed against the city by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a woman whose city residency permit was revoked because she called the police for aid too many times in a 180-day period, according to a Maplewood ordinance. Her calls were the result of an abusive relationship.

The city, according to its statement, “denies allegations that the city has unlawfully discriminated against or violated the rights of any female (or male) victims of domestic abuse,” also that the ordinance has been on the books for more than 10 years, and is enforced only following complaints from other residents.

The city of Maplewood’s full response:

Please note: The City of Maplewood has not been officially served with a lawsuit by the ACLU but we have received numerous press inquiries and public comments.

ACLU LAWSUIT

1. The city vehemently denies any allegations that the city has unlawfully discriminated against or violated the rights of any female (or male) victims of domestic abuse. Maplewood citizens are entitled to live peacefully and free of the public nuisances caused by others involving instances of peace disturbance and domestic abuse occurring repeatedly at the same property over a short period of time. The city specifically denies as false any suggestion that it has ever enforced its nuisance ordinance in a manner that discriminated against a female victim of domestic abuse.

2. The ordinance has been enforced for over 10 years based on complaints or calls to the police that the city has received. These complaints or calls to the police are initiated by residents and neighbors in regards to the occupants of the various residences and are not initiated by the city.

3. Before any enforcement action is taken in regards to nuisances, notices to the parties involved are sent out and an evidentiary-hearing is held in which the individual who is causing the alleged nuisance, the complainants and others having relevant evidence provide sworn testimony before a court reporter as to the incidents that have occurred. A determination as to whether a nuisance exists is then made based on the sworn testimony presented at the hearing. Any person involved in the matter who is unhappy with a decision has the opportunity to appeal that decision to the St. Louis County Circuit Court. None of the allegations asserted in the lawsuit have ever been asserted at any of the nuisance hearings that have been held by the city. The evidentiary hearing in this matter was concluded over five years ago, and in that time frame, neither the plaintiff in this lawsuit nor the ACLU has ever contacted the city to complain or voice any concerns regarding the city’s nuisance ordinance or its enforcement.

4. The city will vigorously defend this lawsuit and its ordinance, which is similar to ordinances adopted and enforced by many other communities through the country.

3 thoughts on “Maplewood city responds to ACLU lawsuit

  1. The redress for the “accused” requires an evidentiary hearing and sworn testimony, a very public outing of personal issues that would challenge any citizen in its formality. It puts the victim, many of whom are already hesitant to speak of the situation, in an impossible position. Again, it victimizes the victim, who would be much better served by a “community” if offered help and support.

  2. It may be hard to say, without knowing the details of the case, whether the City of Maplewood is right to defend itself against the ACLU’s case. However, I would like to see a more developed explanation of why the ordinance itself should be kept on the books. On the surface, it does not seem to make sense, and to say that it has been around for 10 years and is similar to many other ordinances is not an adequate defense.

    In the Maplewood Code of Ordinances (34.8.17.f), it is said that more than two instances, within 180 days, of domestic violence requiring calls to the police can cause a premises to be deemed in violation of the nuisance ordinance. I understand that the city wants to hold property owners and occupants accountable for actions that cause their properties to become derelict or dangerous. However, this does not seem to make sense in the case of domestic violence, especially if the victim may be held responsible for the “nuisance.” Does the ordinance imply that the victim is neglecting his or her duty to somehow control the perpetrator? If so, what might that duty be, other than to turn to law enforcement for help? If perpetrators of domestic violence are often determined, persistent attackers, how does it make sense to limit the allowable number of calls to the police to two in 180 days? Perhaps there are reasonable answers to these questions. I am interested in knowing.