Denise M. Holliday
Holliday & Holliday PC
7150 N 16th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85020-5545
602-230-0088 [email protected]
I hereby join in the comments filed by the law firm of Williams, Zinman and Parham. As an attorney that has litigated in this specific arena for over 20 years, the existing rules that became effective in 2009 already provide adequate protections for all parties. By requiring litigants to physically appear before the Judge before the court will accept their written settlement, there are multiple consequences that negatively impact these parties and the court system.
1) The proposed rule will increase the time required to complete the court eviction dockets. This will increase the attorney fees charged to the tenants. Currently, the attorney fees charged for eviction actions are significantly lower than in any other field.
2) By refusing to allow a tenant to execute the stipulation and leave, this proposed rule will force a tenant to miss more time away from work while they wait for the court to call their case, only to be cross-examined as to whether they understood what they just signed. In fact, during the pilot program in Maricopa County Justice Courts in January 2017, multiple defendants complained they were being treated unfairly and were caused undue delay when these litigants had already read the pleadings and acknowledged they were liable. They understood what they signed but were forced to stay and be questioned by the judge. Many took this as an insult to their intelligence.
3) The attorneys in this field have reached a consensus based upon the pilot program in the Maricopa County Justice Courts in January 2017. Because of this program, they will not meet with any defendants and discuss reaching a stipulation. This is based upon the pilot questions by the trial court that led the listener to believe the attorney was under suspicion and must have misled the litigant. The program also required the attorney to provide legal advice to the opposing party.
4) There has been no evidence or single incident that any attorney has ever misled any defendant in the stipulation process. In fact, in the one and only case where a complaint was made by a third party over what they stated was an "overheard misrepresentation", the trial court held a hearing and found that the person reporting the allegations admitted they were not been present during the entire discussion and may have been mistaken in their report. It should noted the person who made this allegation was a lawyer that has been outspoken about the use of stipulations in eviction actions and was part of a special summer pilot program that was attempting to gather information about how the justice courts were operating. This attempt to manufacture a problem when none existed was outrageous and unethical. That program created so many problems, the courts that had voluntarily agreed to participate in the program shut down how that group was permitted to operate in the court system and the contact they had with the litigants.
5) The justice court system processes a very large number of evictions each month. It is very relevant for this Court to review the comments made by the judges regarding concerns they have with this proposed rule. Presiding Judge Steve McMurry created this program, encouraged a number of judges to participate in the January pilot program, and has provided this Court with a very frank view of their findings. I strongly encourage this Court to consider the opinions of the very judges that preside over over 80% of all the eviction actions heard in this state. They universally agree they have seen no evidence of the alleged issues raised by the Petitioner.
Finally, the comments and positions made by all the stakeholders during the creation of the RPEA between 2007 through 2008 should be reviewed prior to this Court making any substantial changes. These changes are suggested and supported only by a small group of people who have openly admitted their desire to make the eviction process slower and more difficult. Arizona is one of the few states with very fair and balanced rules and statutes that equally protect the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. This fact has helped our housing industry provide affordable housing opportunities for everyone.