ORIGINAL REPORT, 11:36 AM: Just in: King County Superior Court Judge Mariane Spearman has rejected Triangle Property Development‘s petition for a “writ of mandamus” which would basically have forced Seattle Police to arrest Jean and Byron Barton for trespassing, as they continue to occupy the Morgan Junction home from which they were evicted last month, three months after Triangle bought it at a foreclosure auction. The judge’s ruling comes five days after a hearing on the issue (WSB coverage here). Judge Spearman wrote that SPD has discretion on whether to make an arrest in a situation like this, and that an “extraordinary” move such as a writ of mandamus is not appropriate for compelling an action in which there is discretion. See the ruling in PDF, or embedded below:
We’re also contacting Triangle Development’s lawyer for comment; the company announced July 29th that it would take the city to court. That was 11 days after sheriff’s deputies – who enforce evictions in King County, whether within city limits or not – removed the Bartons from the house; later that day (July 18th), the couple re-entered it. SPD arrived at the house late in the day, but did not arrest them, and Mayor Murray issued a statement the following Monday saying he had told SPD to “stand by while the latest court proceedings unwind.”
ADDED 12:42 PM: A few other notes – The Bartons themselves were not a direct party in this particular legal action. It was taken by Triangle Development against Mayor Murray and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, and is unrelated to the Bartons’ ongoing lawsuit (read it here) alleging that the foreclosure was illegal. If you haven’t read today’s ruling yet, another reason cited by the judge was that Triangle has other options for getting control of the property – including getting the King County Sheriff’s Office to serve another order. Meantime, the mayor has posted a statement about the ruling, saying, among other things, “… the judge decided that SPD acted properly in exercising its discretion over the past three weeks.”
ADDED 4:46 PM: The advocacy group SAFE has sent a statement, which includes Jean Barton’s reaction to the city’s contention that she and her husband are ignoring/spurning housing-related services:
Today, a King County judge ruled that SPD acted properly in not interfering in Jean and Byron Bartons’ civil land dispute regarding their home in West Seattle. The judge has now put the ball in King County’s court, giving Triangle Properties the option to seek a writ against the Sheriff’s department to carry out an eviction that they claim they have already carried out.
The Bartons’ case has now become something of a hot potato, with Triangle passing it to the courts, the city passing the matter to the county, the county passing it back to the city, and now the judge tossing it back to the King County Sheriff’s Department.
Meanwhile, Byron Barton is still in his home of 61 years, in comfortable conditions, under the home care of his wife, while the couple waits for a superior court to make a decision regarding the fraudulent foreclosure practices of Chase Bank and Quality Loan Services, who auctioned the property to Triangle last April. Quality Loan Services has already been reprimanded by Attorney General Bob Ferguson last March for illegal foreclosure practices, and those same practices were used in the theft of Jean and Byron’s home.
“If someone takes your home, and they break the law while doing it, don’t you deserve your day in court before the property is removed from you?” says Randy Whitelock, SAFE Organizer, ”The AG has already gone after QLS publicly, and put a moratorium on foreclosures they’re involved in. They are the criminals, not the Bartons.”
As far as services supposedly offered by the city… “All we’ve gotten are a list of phone numbers, applications for 3 to 5 year waiting lists, and a case worker from the VA who has done nothing. The idea that we’ve turned down resources is ridiculous,” says Jean Barton.
The simple truth is that the city has no adequate resources for putting displaced citizens into stable, permanent housing, an issue that should be addressed by Mayor Murray in his mission to end veteran homelessness in Seattle.
But for now, the Bartons are in their home, awaiting their day in court.