On Wednesday, King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Jim Roberts suspended residential eviction hearings until March 30. The 21 eviction hearings on the county's docket for the rest of the week will be delayed until then.
This order follows a public pressure campaign from tenants groups such as Washington CAN, a pretty courageous letter from Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht saying her office would no longer drag people out of their homes "until the...threat of COVID-19 has dissipated," and local moratoriums on evictions filed by Seattle and Burien earlier in the week.
In his memo, Judge Rogers said the actions taken by the sheriff's office and those cities created "a patchwork of procedures and stays that will create great confusion for the parties in these cases," and so the Court must "review its current procedures to ensure that access is maintained for all parties during this public health emergency."
Though Rogers's order briefly patches up the patchwork of eviction moratoriums in King County, orders from different counties and municipalities could lead to confusion statewide. On Tuesday morning, for example, Spokane Superior Court issued a suspension of eviction hearings, but landlords can still issue evictions everywhere else in the state.
In his order, Rogers basically throws his hands up and says it's up to the Governor or Supreme Court Chief Justice Debra Stephens to place a statewide moratorium on evictions proceedings if they want to. A spokesperson for Gov. Inslee said his office was "looking into this and a myriad other things as well," and added that "all options are on the table."
Update 3:08: That was fast. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Inslee announced a 30-day ban on residential evictions statewide. Landlords can't nail an eviction notice to a tenant's door for failure to pay rent, and they can't give tenants a 20-day notice unless there's some health reason to do so. Moreover, for the next 30 days, the Sheriff can't enforce evictions for failure to pay rent, but they can enforce evictions for tenants who are committing crimes or violating nuisance restrictions. This order will bring some clarity to tenants and landlords across the state, and protect many tenants from getting booted to the curb during a pandemic.