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from South Euclid resident’s lawsuit says city’s nuisance law unfairly discriminates against people with disabilities

Posted September 8, 2021
4:25 pm

By John Caniglia,

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A South Euclid woman has sued the city over a nuisance law that has caused officials to place more than $12,000 in liens on her property, saying it unfairly discriminates against people with disabilities.

Gloria Parker filed a lawsuit last week against South Euclid in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, claiming the law is unconstitutional and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and fair housing laws. Marc Dann and Emily White, the attorneys for Parker, called the law one of the harshest nuisance ordinances in the country.

The law says that if police officers are called to a property twice in a span of 12 months, any future calls will result in the owner of the property charged for calls for services. Because of the charges, Parker owes $12,317 in fees to the city, which are imposed as liens on her home.

“Ms. Parker is on a fixed income and cannot afford to pay the criminal nuisance fees that South Euclid has charged,” the lawsuit says. “She is in danger of losing her home due to the tax delinquency caused by these charges.”

Parker’s lawsuit also says that the city does not levy fines against homeowners who are white or who do not have disabilities.

Michael Lograsso, South Euclid’s law director, said the city has not been served with the allegations.

Parker’s lawsuit says she bought her home on Stonehaven Road in South Euclid in 2012. Officers have been called there at least 19 times since 2015, the lawsuit says.

Most of the calls are related to her son, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to the lawsuit. Parker’s son does not live with her, but often spends time at her home.

Many of the calls to Parker’s home stem from her son’s behavior and the harm he causes to others and himself. Others involve calls he made to officers.

“Ms. Parker is also in fear for her safety from her son, and she is in fear of calling the police for help due to the city’s pattern and practice of imposing criminal nuisance fees for police services,” the lawsuit says.

Though her son does not live there, officers advised Parker to evict him, a move that would bar him from the property, according to the lawsuit. In 2019, Parker obtained an eviction order from South Euclid Municipal Court.

The suit said the city does not use the criminal nuisance ordinance to fine white residents who call police or those who do not have disabilities or family members with disabilities.

Dann said in the filing that the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents cities from “excluding or otherwise denying equal services, programs or activities to an individual or entity because of a known disability.

“Ms. Parker is unable to enjoy the same benefits and access to police services that are available to other South Euclid residents due to her fear that she will face imposition of additional fees by South Euclid,” the document says.

The lawsuit is similar to one the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the city of Bedford in 2019. Nearly 18 months later, Bedford agreed to pay $350,000 and repeal its own nuisance law.

In the Bedford case, a resident sued the suburb claiming its nuisance law discriminated against renters in the event someone on the property called police twice within a year. The law applied even if the tenant was not the person at fault.

Bedford agreed to pay $60,000 to Beverley Somai, the resident who challenged the ordinance. The rest of the settlement was split among the Fair Housing Center, the ACLU and the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

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