The ten constables responsible for carrying out evictions in Pima County have said they will not be removing tenants for the foreseeable future.
Evictions have effectively stopped in Pima County, after the region’s ten enforcement officers responsible for removing tenants announced on Wednesday that evictions would be halted in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The declaration came the same day West Mesa Justice of the Peace Elaissia Sears postponed eviction hearings in her court. In both instances, the decision was a response to a lack of clear direction from state leadership as to how to handle evictions during a public health crisis.
“The Pima County Constable’s Office will not be conducting evictions until we have received adequate guidance from the Pima County Health Department,” Constable Bennett Bernal said in a statement. “We feel the gravity of this epidemic calls for immediate action to minimize infections in our state.”
Gov. Doug Ducey has been hesitant to take any action that would impact the state’s economy. While leadership from the cities of Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, Tempe, and Glendale have mandated restrictions on restaurants and bars, Ducey has let business run as usual.
“I am following the guidance of Dr. Christ and the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health,” he told KJZZ. “Our decisions have been guided by subject-matter experts and informed by the facts.”
Ducey has declared a state of emergency in Arizona, allowing for temporary measures to be put in place to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The Arizona Supreme Court issued an administrative order shortly after, giving the state’s justice system’s local jurisdictions leeway in how they administer the law.
The order is what has provided Sears and the constables to the flexibility in processing evictions, but Bernal wants the state’s highest court to do more.
“We are requesting the Supreme Court take immediate action to halt all eviction proceedings until a statewide set of protocols can be established to ensure the public’s safety,” Bernals said. “We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and look forward to receiving guidance soon.”