MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County eviction proceedings resumed Monday for the first time since mid-March but the courthouse remained a lot less busy and calmer than most attorneys expected.
“Before COVID, courtrooms were packed,” Judge Betty Moore said at the beginning of her afternoon cases.
Moore acknowledged her courtroom looked different Monday. She said landlords and their renters had been able to reach agreements on their own.
“Landlords and tenants are coming together saying we all recognize this is a crisis for everybody. What can we do?” Moore said.
She still heard a small number of cases, mostly stemming from February, before the coronavirus pandemic.
Cindy Ettingoff of Memphis Area Legal Services expected a much larger caseload.
“When I came, there was nobody going into the courthouse,” she said.
She said each judge could’ve heard up to 100 eviction cases Monday, but opted not to.
“I think the largest I saw for a morning docket was 12,” she said.
She also said that helped minimize confusion over new safety measures, like mask requirements, temperature checks for employees and seats blocked off for social distancing.
Landlords still had some confusion over legal requirements related to the CARES Act.
Judge Moore asked each landlord’s attorney if they had signed an affidavit stating they did not use federal funds to buy their property.
If they did, they cannot evict tenants right now. They must wait to give 30 days’ notice until July 23.
That’s when Ettingoff expects court traffic to pick up.
“I expect those numbers will substantially increase after the 23rd,” she said.
She reminded anyone called into evictions court they can get help from their organization. She also asked lawyers and law students who could volunteer their time to help on evictions cases to contact them directly.