The Lincoln Place Briefcase

By Sheila Bernard

This briefcase, packed with the many legal battles of the last 20 years, has always been pretty heavy to lug around, but September 2007 promises to be a particularly heavy month.

To put September in context, first a word about August:

Lincoln Place tenants won another victory. The California 2nd Court of Appeals ruled in the Lincoln Place tenants’ favor in Marlin v AIMCO, reinstating the case which a lower court judge had thrown out as a SLAPP suit.

The Marlins had requested the court to render an opinion (provide “declaratory relief”) on whether AIMCO was entitled to evict the tenants under the Ellis Act. Marlins believed the evictions were illegal, since AIMCO had gotten a redevelopment plan approved by the city, which promised there would be no evictions from the property.

Using an increasingly common landlord tactic, AIMCO filed a motion to strike the case, alleging that the Marlins request to the court was a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP. In other words, they claimed the Marlins had violated AIMCO’s first amendment right of petition or free speech. The lower court had ruled in AIMCO’s favor, dismissing the Marlins’ suit.

The appellate court ruled emphatically that the Marlins’ request was not a SLAPP. The Marlins were entitled to question the validity of the evictions.

This ruling could be a very important to tenants statewide, removing these anti-SLAPP motions from landlords’ legal arsenal. It is especially significant that the Court of Appeals has decided to publish their opinion, after receiving numerous requests to do so, including a request from the California Attorney General’s office.

The Marlins’ case now goes back to the trial court where it will be heard on its merits. According to attorney Jan Book, we do not know when this will happen. The tenants’ other appellate case, Mueller v AIMCO and City of LA, addresses the issues in the Marlin case and also asks the court to rule on how the Ellis Act interacts with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), since the conditions of approval of the redevelopment agreement for Lincoln Place are CEQA conditions which AIMCO is violating. If the court rules on the CEQA case first, the questions posed by Marlin will be answered.

At present, LPTA has (1) twelve eviction cases pending jury trial in Malibu Superior Court, with the next status conference set for October 2; (2) thirty-seven eviction appeals pending in the appellate department of the superior court, (3) Marlin v AIMCO being remanded back to the trial court, and (4) the CEQA case, fully briefed and scheduled for oral argument before the Court of Appeals, the same panel which just ruled in the Marlins’ favor, on Friday, September 7, at 300 South Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.

For the many Venetians who believe that American society is still subject to the rule of law, the ongoing battles of the Lincoln Place Tenants Association represent our best effort to bring justice to the majority of Angelinos, who happen to be renters.

Posted: Sat - September 1, 2007 at 11:58 AM