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On July 20, an Ada County judge ruled that Idaho tenants have a right to a jury trial in eviction proceedings, a reversal of law that has been on the Idaho books since 1996.

“This is a constitutional right for people facing evictions,” said ACLU-Idaho Legal Director Ritchie Eppink, “and because jury trials won’t happen now until October [because of the pandemic], they can now wait on eviction.”

In June, Idaho Legal Aid and ACLU-Idaho filed a lawsuit against the State of Idaho to give residents the right to a jury of peers in cases of eviction. Eppink said the ACLU is waiting to see if the federal government will extend the halt on evictions, adding that “if it doesn’t expire, experts agree that we’re going to see an even more monumental eviction crisis and we’ll feel that harm for years to come.”

Idaho already had a housing crisis before the pandemic, and Idaho Legal Aid services have already seen double the need from this time last year. People who face eviction can now contact the housing rights hotline at Legal Aid to learn how to request a hearing because people won’t receive a hearing without making a request.

“What’s really important is that people get in touch with Legal Aid so they can ask for a jury trial,” said Eppink. “That’s people’s constitutional right.”

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