Lindsey v. Normet
405 U.S. 56 (1972)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56 (1972)

Lindsey v. Normet

No. 70-5045

Argued November 15, 1971

Decided February 23, 1972

405 U.S. 56

Syllabus

Appellants, month-to-month tenants of appellee Normet. refused to pay their monthly rent unless certain substandard conditions were remedied, and appellee threatened eviction. Appellants filed a class action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Oregon Forcible Entry and Wrongful Detainer (FED) Statute was unconstitutional on its face, and an injunction against its continued enforcement. Appellants attacked principally (1) the requirement of trial no later than six days after service of the complaint unless security for accruing rent is provided, (2) the limitation of triable issues to the tenant's default, defenses based on the landlord's breach of duty to maintain the premises being precluded, and (3) the requirement of posting bond on appeal, with two sureties, in twice the amount of rent expected to accrue pending appellate decision, this bond to be forfeited if the lower court decision is affirmed. The District Court granted the motion to dismiss the complaint, concluding that the statute did not violate the Due Process or the Equal Protection Clause.

Held:

1. Neither the early trial provision nor the limitation on litigable issues is invalid on its face under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 405 U. S. 64-69.

(a) The time for trial preparation is not unduly short where the issue is simply whether the tenant has paid or has held over, and the requirement for rent security for a continuance of the action is not irrational or oppressive. Pp. 405 U. S. 64-65.

(b) Appellants are not denied due process because rental payments are not suspended while the alleged wrongdoings of the landlord are litigated, as Oregon may treat the tenant's undertakings and those of the landlord as independent covenants. P. 405 U. S. 68.

(c) Appellants are not foreclosed from instituting suit against the landlord and litigating their right to damages and other relief in that action, nor have they shown that Oregon excludes any "available" defenses on the limited questions at issue in an FED suit. Pp. 405 U. S. 65-66, 405 U. S. 69.

Page 405 U. S. 57

2. Neither the early trial provision nor the limitation on litigable issues is invalid on it face under the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 405 U. S. 69-74.

(a) The State has the power to implement its legitimate objective of achieving rapid and peaceful settlement of possessory disputes between landlord and tenant by enacting special provisions applicable only to such disputes. Pp. 405 U. S. 70-73.

(b) Absent constitutional mandate, the assurance of adequate housing and the definition of landlord-tenant relationships is a legislative function. P. 405 U. S. 74.

3. The double bond prerequisite for appealing an FED action does violate the Equal Protection Clause, as it arbitrarily discriminates against tenant wishing to appeal from adverse FED decisions. It heavily burden the statutory right of an FED defendant to appeal, and is not necessary to effectuate the State's purpose of preserving the property at issue. Pp. 405 U. S. 74-79.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., post, p. 405 U. S. 79, and BRENNAN, J., post, p. 405 U. S. 90, filed opinions dissenting in part. POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 405 U. S. 58

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