In this episode of Legal Bits, we look at a new landlord training mandate in Delaware, access to the courts for indigents, and shenanigans in the federal trial of those Oregon occupiers.
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A Course in Landlording
If you own rental property in Wilmington, Delaware, you’re now required to take a course on being a good landlord. The new policy was proposed as a crime-fighting measure by mayoral candidate Maria Cabrera, who sits on the city council.
The course instructs landlords on how to choose good tenants, how to spot drug and other criminal activity, and how to maintain rental properties to meet city codes.
They also learn the state’s eviction laws and the procedures for evicting tenants.
Landlord training has always been available in Wilmington, but the new requirement makes some landlords nervous. They are worried that failure to follow the mandate, or the guidance offered in the course, could make them liable for injuries caused by their tenants.
That’s always a concern when government mandates something that’s been voluntary in the past. I’ll be interested to see if the new mandate has more impact on crime or on eviction rates.
In Forma Pauperis Affirmed
Jerry A. Hurst has been fighting his auto insurer for years. He sued them in 2010 for not covering his losses when a van was stolen, but a judge dismissed his pro se lawsuit.
Now he’s suing them for violating his privacy by publishing his personal data online.
Jerry filed a 20-page handwritten complaint alleging that State Farm filed his drivers license and social security numbers in that earlier case, putting him at risk of identity theft from crooks scouring court dockets.
Jerry lives on a $1400 monthly Social Security check, so he couldn’t afford the $400 fee required to file his complaint. But a federal judge denied Jerry’s application to file the suit in forma pauperis, or as an indigent.
The judge ordered Jerry to pay the filing fee, or see his case dismissed.
So Jerry appealed, and an appellate court reversed the decision last month. The court calculated Jerry’s income after his basic needs were met and found him to be a pauper.
Jerry’s case will not be dismissed for failure to pay the filing fee. And hopefully federal courts will do some basic math before denying indigent status to pro se litigants.
Bundy’s Sovereign Silliness
Meanwhile in Oregon, the Bundy brothers and their followers go on trial next week for occupying that wildlife refuge in January. They are representing themselves, with legal counsel “assisting” at the judge’s request.
Their claims of personal sovereignty — or rather, the government’s lack of jurisdiction over them — have made a mockery of the process.
They’ve violated the judge’s orders at every opportunity. In fact, the judge has threatened to revoke their pro se status and have them represented by standby counsel should they disobey an order at trial.
I wish I could say this case bears watching, but it’s not true. These guys are bound for prison, and their ridiculous courtroom antics can only harm our reputations as self-represented litigants.
We’ve said before that so-called sovereign citizens make us all look silly. The Bundy trial will be a case in point, and that’s truly unfortunate.
With any luck, the judge will shut them down and let the jury do its job, and we won’t hear much about it.
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That’s all for this episode of Legal Bits. Share your litigation news in the comments below.