On August 2, 2021, the Superior Court Judge officially entered judgment for Silver & Wright LLP in the Morales v. City of Indio case, expressly stating that Silver & Wright LLP is the prevailing party. This win comes after three years of litigation, defamation, false narratives, and threats – all stemming from a failed effort by the Institute for Justice, a special interest group, to undermine the ability of cities to clean up their communities. The Institute for Justice’s loss in this case is one of a string of manufactured cases they have now lost in court after filing similar lawsuits attacking other cities and their city attorneys. In the Morales case, the Court heard all of the Institute for Justice’s arguments and rejected each one, fully exonerating Silver & Wright LLP.
The City of Indio hired the firm in 2015 to represent the City in nuisance abatement cases – ones involving violations of city and state health and safety laws – which included the Morales property in Indio. Morales, the landlord, illegally rented one of her eight homes to a tenant who violated a city ordinance that prohibits keeping farm animals in residential areas. After neighbors complained about the noise from these animals, the Indio Police Department issued multiple warnings to Morales, informing her that she and her tenant were violating the law. Unfortunately, those warnings were ignored and the issues were not resolved. As a last resort, the City chose to press criminal charges against Morales for her violations, in an effort to compel finally to comply. After the City prevailed, the City then decided to exercise its right to recover the loss of taxpayer resources that were required to get Morales to comply with the law. Also, plaintiffs in the case were other convicted violators from the City of Coachella, who were brought into compliance with the law through a similar process. All voluntarily pled guilty, and even in this lawsuit, never claimed they were innocent.
Nonetheless, similar to its tactics in other cities and states, the Institute for Justice manufactured false claims that Silver & Wright LLP and the cities it worked for violated the law and acted unfairly. Silver & Wright LLP refused to concede even with the cities did and defended itself against the lawsuit, proving that the Institute for Justice’s claims were completely false. When it became apparent the Institute for Justice would lose the case, they attempted to dismiss Silver & Wright LLP at the last minute in order to deprive the firm of its day in court and judgment being entered for the firm. The Court saw through the Institute for Justice’s bad faith tactic, and heard the claims, rejected them and entered judgment for Silver & Wright LLP – finally setting the record straight.
The information the Institute for Justice fabricated and several media sources repeated was not only false but provided an inaccurate depiction of the case as well as code enforcement litigation in general. The facts surrounding the Morales case, which can be proven with certified court documents, are summarized below.
- Before Silver & Wright LLP won, the cities (Indio and Coachella) entered into settlement agreements merely to avoid further unnecessary litigation costs despite the law being in the cities’ favor. Those cities denied any wrongdoing, and Silver & Wright LLP was not a party to the settlements because the Plaintiffs were wrong.
- The settlements did not set aside the violators’ convictions, and those plaintiffs never even claimed they were innocent because they were not.
- Silver & Wright LLP is always paid for its services by the cities regardless of case outcome or the status of the cities’ cost recovery from the convicted violator. Pursuant to State law, municipalities were authorized to seek recovery of the public funds that the public was forced to incur due to convicted violators’ refusal to cooperate with the cities’ nuisance abatement efforts.
- All cases were referred to Silver & Wright LLP by the cities; the firm never “found” or sought out cases. The vast majority of code enforcement cases start with a complaint from a neighbor.
- Of the hundreds of criminal nuisance abatement cases Silver & Wright LLP assisted with, cost recovery was sought by the City in only about 9% of them.
- Silver & Wright LLP helped these cities seek and process their cost recovery but never “pocketed” any of the cost recovery. Every penny of any cost recovery received went to the cities.
- The Institute for Justice has filed several similar claims against cities all over the country, including a near-identical one against another California city and its city attorneys, which the Institute for Justice also lost.