November 7, 2023

Hon. Charles A. Smiley III, Presiding Judge
Department 1
Alameda Superior Court
Rene C. Davison Courthouse
1225 Fallon Street
Oakland, CA 94612

Dear Presiding Judge Smiley:

As tenant organizations and legal services providers, we write because of concerns regarding the
increased number of unlawful detainer cases currently in front of the Alameda County Superior Court. It
appears that the Court’s current inability to handle the increased caseload is depriving tenants of due
process of law. As tenants are the parties most likely to appear before the court unrepresented, they are
now at risk of losing their unlawful detainer cases and becoming homeless even when their landlords do
not have a meritorious case.

The California Constitution provides that a “person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property
without due process of law.” (Cal. Const., art. I, § 7, subd. (a); see also U.S. Const, Amend. 14; Nozzi v.
Hous. Auth. (9th Cir. 2015) 806 F.3d 1178, 1190, fn. 15 (“The language of Article I § 7 of the California
Constitution is “virtually identical” to the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, with the
caveat that California courts place a higher significance on the dignitary interest inherent in providing
proper procedure.”)

The “central meaning of due process is “the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard”… ‘granted at a
meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.'” (Fuentes v. Shevin (1972) 407 U.S. 67, 80.) In the context
of a court proceeding, this requires, at a minimum, adequate procedures in which a litigant can participate
that will meaningfully determine the validity of the underlying claim against them. (See Mihans v.
Municipal Court (1970) 7 Cal.App.3d 479, 488.)

Like other litigants, tenants who appear in eviction proceedings must be afforded due process of law. “The
right of a tenant to the continued use of his rented property is a substantial and valuable right and until it
has been judicially determined that such right has been forfeited because of the failure to meet certain
conditions in the rental agreement, such as the obligation to pay rent, the right is entitled to judicial
protection.” (Mihans, 7 Cal.App.3d at 484, citing Mendoza v. Small Claims Court, 49 Cal.2d 668, 672.)
Both federal and California state courts have held that a tenant’s interest in their home or their housing
subsidy can be a constitutionally protected property interest. (See, e.g., Gallman v. Pierce (N.D.Cal. 1986)
639 F.Supp. 472, 482; Anchor Pacifica Management Co. v. Green (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 232, 245;
Arrieta v. Mahon (1982) 31 Cal.3d 381, 390.) When sued in unlawful detainer, a tenant indisputably has
the right to due process of law.

We have recently become aware that in response to the unprecedented number of unlawful detainer
filings, the Alameda County Court system has allowed almost double the number of evictions to be
scheduled for trial at one time as they previously allowed. This has overwhelmed not only the legal
service providers across the county but also the court. Although legal services providers are available,
they are not able to handle the current amount of scheduled cases; last week, half of litigants appeared

Parties are unable to file any motions or meaningfully participate in the litigation process due to the
amount of cases being pushed through quickly. Litigants are often unable to obtain motion hearings for
dispositive motions that might otherwise end their cases. There is growing concern that the present
process is leading to a violation of due process rights. While there were over 100 cases set for settlement
conference last week, legal services organizations have requested that a 50-case cap be placed on the
number of cases set for trial each week to alleviate some of these growing issues.


Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment – Oakland Chapter
Bay Area Legal Aid
Berkeley Tenants Union
Centro Legal de la Raza
Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
East Bay Community Law Center
East Bay Housing Organizations
Eviction Defense Center
Moms 4 Housing
My Eden Voice
National Housing Law Project
Oakland Tenants Union
Public Advocates
Public Interest Law Project
SEIU Local 1021
Western Center on Law and Poverty

Cc: Mayor Sheng Thao, Oakland; Mayor Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley; Councilmember Kate Harrison,
Berkeley; Councilmember George Syrop, Hayward; Councilmember Carroll Fife, Oakland;
Councilmember Celina Reynes, San Leandro; School Board Director Valarie Bachelor, Oakland;
School Board Director Jennifer Brouhard, Oakland