City Agrees to $495,000 Settlement in Domestic Violence Case
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently announced a settlement in its lawsuit against the city of Norristown, Pa., challenging a municipal ordinance that allegedly punished domestic violence victims and their landlords for requesting police assistance.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of a domestic violence victim, who allegedly faced eviction after requesting police protection from an abusive ex-boyfriend. As part of the settlement, the city agreed to repeal the ordinance and to pay $495,000 to the woman and her lawyers.
The ordinance encouraged landlords to evict tenants when the police were called to a property three times in four months for "disorderly behavior," including for incidents of domestic violence, according to the ACLU. The complaint claimed that the woman was threatened with eviction under this policy after the police responded to her home and arrested her abusive ex-boyfriend for physically assaulting her.
Allegedly, the woman feared losing her home and didn’t call the police for future incidents, including one in which her ex-boyfriend attacked her with a brick. When neighbors called the police after her ex-boyfriend stabbed her in the neck with broken glass and she was airlifted to the hospital, the city allegedly threatened her with forcible removal from her home under the ordinance. She has since found alternate housing and secured an order of protection against her ex-boyfriend.
"The ordinance puts lives at risk by blaming domestic violence victims for the crimes occurring in their homes," Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said in a statement. "Norristown’s repeal of the ordinance is an important step in ensuring that all residents have equal access to police services without risking homelessness."
The ACLU reported that HUD also filed a fair housing complaint, which remains outstanding pending its settlement negotiations with the municipality.