Monday, April 11, 2016

Judge orders eviction of 100-year-old woman for causing commotion

Evelyn Heller
Judge orders eviction of 100-year-old woman for causing commotion
ABA Journal
By Debra Cassens Weiss
April 05, 2016


A judge in Riverside County, California, evicted a 100-year-old woman from her Palm Springs apartment on Friday based on a request from her landlord, who sought her ouster because of alleged loud arguments and "deplorable conditions" in her apartment.

The woman, Evelyn Heller, defended herself, the Desert Sun reports. She did a brief hula dance after being sworn in, then later hovered by the judge’s bench during arguments. She was unable to read a court document until someone in the audience volunteered her eye glasses.

A Desert Sun reporter who visited Heller’s apartment said her carpet was dirty and her living room was cluttered with boxes and stacks of magazines. The mess, however, was "far from the point of hoarding," the newspaper reported.

The landlord, Deep Canyon Desert, was represented by William Windham. He told the Desert Sun he felt conflicted but it was part of his job as an eviction specialist.

"I’ve evicted people off of their death beds and regretted every second of the trial," Windham said. "But my job is unfortunately to set my feeling aside and do what my clients ask me to do."

"It would be same if this was a lady who was 30 years old and had five children, or a little old man with cancer," he told the Desert Sun. "If you have a commotion being caused on the property, and the people won’t stop, you have no choice but to take action."

Heller didn’t realize she had lost the case until a deputy told her outside the courtroom. She has two weeks to find a new place to stay. Read more
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100-year-old woman booted from her Palm Desert home
The Desert Sun
By Brett Kelman
April 2, 2016


Evelyn Heller, a frail-but-feisty great-grandmother with a long white ponytail, shuffled across a Palm Springs courtroom, barely lifting her feet taking tiny steps. When she reached the judge’s bench, she eased forward on to her toes, then leaned in close, as if unable to see the man in front of her.

"I’m 100 years old!" Heller shouted, before turning her attention to an attorney on the other side of the courtroom. "And I don’t understand what they are talking about."

Heller, a Coachella Valley resident who was born in 1915, was evicted from her Palm Desert apartment during a brief trial at the Palm Springs courthouse on Friday morning. Despite reluctance voiced by both the judge and the plaintiff’s attorney, Heller was ordered out of her home, and told to pay $616 in prorated rent and more than $800 in court and attorney’s fees.

She now has about two weeks to leave her apartment. Heller said she does not know where she will go.

"I have four grandsons, but I don’t want to be dependent on them," Heller told the judge, pleading. "I can’t be a burden to my family. They don’t have room for me. That happens in life."

Heller’s landlord, Deep Canyon Desert LLC, which owns and manages a small cluster of beige apartments at 45200 Deep Canyon Road, said it wanted Heller evicted because she often had loud, disruptive arguments with one of her daughters. The company threatened to evict her twice before, but nothing improved, so it followed through this time.

The apartment complex manager, Melody Morrison, also told a judge said Heller kept the apartment in "deplorable conditions." A Desert Sun reporter who visited the apartment on Friday afternoon found the carpet dirty and the living room cluttered with boxes and stacks of magazines, but far from the point of hoarding.

After court, Morrison declined to comment, then walked briskly away from a reporter to avoid questions. The company’s attorney, William Windham, an eviction specialist, said his client did not want to evict Heller, but felt it was a reality of their business.

Windham said he felt conflicted too.

"I’ve evicted people off of their death beds and regretted every second of the trial," Windham said. "But my job is unfortunately to set my feeling aside and do what my clients ask me to do."

"It would be same if this was a lady who was 30 years old and had five children, or a little old man with cancer," he added. "If you have a commotion being caused on the property, and the people won’t stop, you have no choice but to take action."

In this case, that action came in the form of an "unlawful detainer," which is a mundane court filing in which a landlord asks a judge to force a tenant from a property. Cases like these are rarely worthy of media attention, but the trial held on Friday morning was a strange one.

Heller defended herself, despite the fact that she could barely see or hear. After she took an oath to tell the truth, she kept her hand raised and did a brief hula dance, then laughed under her breath. Her eyesight was too poor to read court documents until someone volunteered a pair of eye glasses from the courtroom audience.

And finally, when it came time for arguments, Heller refused to stay at the defendant’s table, and instead hovered on the edge of the judge’s bench, unwilling to sit. For most defendants, this would result in a firm response from the bailiffs – including possible arrest – but as Heller pleaded with the judge, barely out of arm’s reach, deputies stood back and watched, uncertain how to react.

This leniency appeared to be a sign of sympathy, but in the end it didn’t matter. Riverside County Judge Charles Haines ruled against Heller without any deliberation. He issued his judgment in a low, hushed tone that she couldn’t hear.

Outside the courtroom, a deputy had to explain to her that she had lost.

"What? What kind of ridiculous thing is that?" she snapped, as the reality of the ruling set in. "But I don’t have any money." Read online

Reporter Brett Kelman can be reached at (760) 778 4642, brett.kelman@desertsun.com or @TDSbrettkelman on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. So 100 year-old Evelyn Heller is representing herself in the U.S. adversary legal system against experienced counsel, in order to keep her shelter, an apartment. The linked story shows "Heller defended herself, despite the fact that she could barely see or hear. After she took an oath to tell the truth, she kept her hand raised and did a brief hula dance, then laughed under her breath. Heller was not competent to represent herself.

    As for the commotion, that appears to be her daughter’s making: "Heller’s landlord, Deep Canyon Desert LLC...said it wanted Heller evicted because she often had loud, disruptive arguments with one of her daughters." Perhaps the daughter should go instead.

    In my view Riverside County Judge Charles Haines should be removed from the bench, and the landlord’s attorney William Windham should be disbarred. Windham said he felt conflicted too. "I’ve evicted people off of their death beds and regretted every second of the trial,"

    It won’t take many judges booted, or many lawyers disbarred, until the rest of the bench and bar see that older Americans are provided services under the federal Older Americans Act in cases like this.

    100 year-old Evelyn Heller was eligible for services under the federal Older Americans Act, including legal services.

    The Older Americans Act (OAA)
    42 USC Chapter 35
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/chapter-35

    The California Department of Aging administers the OAA
    https://www.aging.ca.gov/

    California OAA programs include legal services
    https://www.aging.ca.gov/Programs/Legal/

    California Legal Services (Title IIIB) Reports
    https://www.aging.ca.gov/ProgramsProviders/Legal/Legal_Services_Reports/

    National Council on Aging (COA) Older Americans Act (OAA) reauthorized House amendments to S. 192, Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016
    https://www.ncoa.org/public-policy-action/older-americans-act/house/house-oaa-reauthorization-act-of-2016/

    Administration on Aging (AoA) Older Americans Act
    http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_Programs/OAA/Index.aspx
    http://www.aoa.gov/AoA_programs/HCLTC/supportive_services/

    The Older Americans Act (OAA), originally enacted in 1965, supports a range of home and community-based services, such as meals-on-wheels and other nutrition programs, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention and caregivers support.

    http://www.ncpssm.org/PublicPolicy/OlderAmericans/Documents/ArticleID/1171/Older-Americans-Act

    Older Americans Act, Administration for Community Living
    http://www.acl.gov/newsroom/observances/OAA50/docs/OAA-Brief-Final.pdf

    Older Americans Act - AARP Public Policy Institute
    http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/public_policy_institute/health/2014/the-older-americans-act-AARP-ppi-health.pdf

    Older Americans Act, Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Older_Americans_Act

    Federal Older Americans Act (OAA) Program (Florida)
    http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/oaa.php

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