Representative Cases: Unlawful Detainer

Recently, our law office had an unlawful detainer case that consisted of two court trials in State court, a relief from automatic stay in Federal Bankruptcy court, and several motion hearings back in State court that resulted in a judgement for our client. Normally an unlawful detainer case can take up to roughly two months from the time the case is filed until a sheriff comes out to physically evict and lock out the tenant. This case was unique in the sense that there were two trials in state court to get a judgment for our client.

These sequences of events happened because during the first trial, the tenant had first revealed to the court and our law firm that they had just filed for Bankruptcy protection. Normally, when a tenant files for Bankruptcy, they are required to give the court and the opposing side formal notice of the Bankruptcy filing. When a tenant files for Bankruptcy, this puts a temporary stop to all legal proceedings at the State court level. Before a State court trial can continue, the plaintiff in the case needs to pursue their remedies in Federal Bankruptcy court to ask to continue the case at the State court level, being that Bankruptcy is a federal matter. However, when this tenant notified the court and our law firm of the Bankruptcy filing, it was towards the end of the first trial in State court.

The State court still found in our client’s favor, but we were instructed to go into Federal Bankruptcy court to address the issue if the State court had the authority to conduct the first trial even though formal notice of the Bankruptcy wasn’t given until a trial was already underway. A status conference was set in State court before the second court trial to determine the validity of the Bankruptcy court filing.

We had filed the petitions on behalf of our client in Federal Bankruptcy court. Our law firm asked the Bankruptcy court for two things; an annulment and a relief from automatic stay if the annulment was denied. When requesting an annulment from the bankruptcy course in this type of case, you’re asking the court for the original trial decision to stand. The Bankruptcy judge ruled against this request because the tenant had still given notice to the court and our law firm before a final ruling was made in state court. However, the Bankruptcy judge ruled in our favor for the automatic relief of stay to continue the case in state court. This meant we were going to have a second trial on the matter.

We were also successful during the second trial as well, however the trial lasted multiple days as opposed to a standard unlawful detainer trial, which usually takes 30 minutes. After the conclusion of the second trial, our law firm had filed a writ of possession and sheriff instructions to allow the sheriff’s department to conduct the lockout of the tenant. After the conclusion of the trial, the tenant had filed an emergency motion to stay the writ and prevent the sheriff’s office from coming out based on procedural errors they wanted to raise with the judge. The judge heard the tenant’s arguments and denied the motion. Our law firm was ultimately successful with this unique unlawful detainer case even though it took longer to complete. The sheriff’s office came out within 10 days from the second trial date and successfully locked out the tenant, delivering possession of the property back to our client.