Judges suggest alternative to eviction rule changes, public comment period open

By JUDGE GERALD A. WILLIAMS

NORTH VALLEY JUSTICE OF THE PEACE

Residential evictions in Arizona are governed in part by the Rules of Procedure for Eviction Actions.  The State Bar of Arizona recently filed a petition requesting that the Arizona Supreme Court amend these rules. 

The amendments would require landlords to serve as an attachment to the summons and complaint, another copy of the lease, any attachments to the lease, a copy of the tenant ledger and any other relevant documents.   The stated basis for this rule change is that tenants often do not bring the required documents with them when they meet with legal aid attorneys.   

While there is no doubt this may be a significant problem, there are perhaps better solutions available. 

A conservative estimate based on serving an additional 10 pages with each eviction action based on 6,000 cases each month is that the proposed rules would generate 720,000 sheets or more of paper in Maricopa County.

Since nearly every case is prepared as if it will be served by posting and mailing that figure actually doubles.  Consequently, if the proposed amendments are adopted, there will be a mandate to generate over 1.4 million sheets of paper annually in Maricopa County alone.

The Justices of the Peace in Maricopa County suggested three alternatives. 

First, language telling tenants to bring their documents with them could be added to a handout that is already served on tenants.  Second, language could be added to the eviction action telling tenants how to request documents from their landlord.  Third, if a tenant requests a document and the landlord has failed to provide it before trial, then the trial would be required to be delayed.      

The Arizona Supreme Court may adopt all, some or none of our recommendations.  But we believe they are better than requiring a tidal wave of paper be created each week.                       

You can read the complete rule change petition and our response at the Arizona Court Rules Forum web page at https://www.azcourts.gov/Rules-Forum/aft/960.  The case number is R-19-0018. 

Public comments to the proposed changes are due on or before May 1, 2019.

Judge Gerald Williams is the Justice of the Peace for the North Valley Justice Court.  His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.