The Supreme Court’s decision overturned a Court of Appeals’ ruling that a landlord retaliation defense is available only where the retaliation is in response to a tenant filing a Tenant Remedies Action complaint in court. The Supreme Court’s decision ensures that tenants who complain to a government entity, such as a city housing inspector, or their landlord about poor living conditions or other violations of the law or lease will have a legal defense against retaliatory eviction.  

Dorsey represented IX or United Renters for Justice, a nonprofit tenants’ rights organization whose members commonly face retaliation for calling the housing inspector or demanding repairs, in filing the amicus brief.  The members of IX are among the most at risk of retaliation by their landlords: immigrants, people of color, and those living near or below the poverty line.  Dorsey’s brief included factual background about the scope of the problem of retaliatory evictions thanks in part to Dr. Brittany Lewis of the University of Minnesota, who is studying this issue, and demonstrated that the Court of Appeals’ ruling would leave thousands of tenants vulnerable to landlord retaliation.  To illustrate this point, Dorsey obtained data from the City of Minneapolis indicating that, over a two-year period, a single landlord filed 26 eviction actions against tenants who had called a city inspector to complain about substandard living conditions.  Additionally, the brief pointed out that the Court of Appeals’ holding cannot be correct because it would effectively provide a safe harbor for landlords to retaliate against tenants during the mandatory notice timeframe before a Tenant Remedies Action can be filed.