Lansing Resident's Rights Violated After Eviction Without Court Order

December 07, 2006

Detroit — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today filed a lawsuit against two Lansing police officers on behalf of a Lansing resident who was evicted from his home by police without a court order

In early December last year, Johnny Conner’s landlord called the Lansing police and asked the officers to evict Conner from his apartment.  Although the landlord claimed that Connor was not up to date on his rent and had smoked marijuana, Conner was not arrested or convicted of a crime, never given a hearing in court, and no judge had issued an eviction order.  Despite the lack of a court order, two police officers forcibly entered the apartment. At that time, Conner’s dog ran to the door and was fatally shot by police. In addition, police ordered Conner’s car to be towed from the property.

“The law is clear: Police departments cannot help landlords arbitrarily evict families from their homes without a court order,” said Kary L. Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “The police should have followed the proper procedures to ensure that Mr. Conner’s rights were protected.”

In Michigan, a landlord must always go to court to have a tenant evicted and cannot forcibly remove a tenant before a court order is issued. Therefore, the ACLU contends that Conner was evicted from his home and his car was seized by police in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of procedural due process and his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful search and seizures.

“The police took the landlord’s word rather than following the law,” said ACLU Cooperating Attorney William Fleener Jr.  “They were clearly untrained in dealing with evictions. Unfortunately, their lack of training led to the loss of Mr. Conner’s housing, the death of his dog and the seizure of his car.”

The case will be heard by Judge Richard Alan Enslen of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan.

Mr. Conner is being represented by Fleener, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg and Moss.