Indio, CA – After facing three years of litigation, defamation, false narratives, and even threats, on Monday, June 14, 2021, the Court considered the claims and officially ruled against the Institute for Justice and Morales, rendering a judgment for Silver & Wright LLP in the Morales v. City of Indio case.*
The City of Indio hired the firm in 2015 to assist with nuisance abatement, 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. 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.
False narratives fueled by political interest groups and reporters pushed out defamatory allegations regarding the work and motives of Silver & Wright LLP. One of the largest allegations being that the firm is a “policing for profit” firm. The Institute for Justice manufactured multiple claims against the firm and ultimately filed a class-action lawsuit against the firm, trying to overturn the convictions. The Institute for Justice never contacted Silver & Wright LLP before filing their lawsuit or publishing their false articles to learn the truth or seek resolution. The Institute for Justice even tried to dismiss the firm at the last minute to avoid the Court entering judgment for Silver & Wright LLP when it became apparent the Court was going to do so. It’s clear that this case was never about the facts, but the Institute for Justice’s contempt for local laws.
We are good people, doing good work, to improve communities, in service to the public. It is a shame that the reporters and the IFJ chose to defame us based on the representations of convicted criminals without knowing the facts, just to advance their agenda.
The information pushed out 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.
- While there was a settlement agreement, the cities denied any wrongdoing and agreed to issue refunds.
- Silver & Wright LLP is always paid for its services by the City 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.
- The case was referred to Silver & Wright LLP by the City; 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.
- Before Silver & Wright LLP won the case for them, 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.
Every day, I get the opportunity to work with the finest public servants in the state – city leaders and law enforcement officers – to help protect our communities and keep their residents safe. Municipal codes and nuisance abatement laws help raise the quality of life in our communities. We will continue to serve California’s cities and their residents by working to better public safety and reduce hazardous conditions.
As a law firm specializing in nuisance abatement and code enforcement, Silver & Wright LLP partners with cities as experts in their field to assist in achieving their goals of public safety, reducing blight, and recovering their enforcement costs where permitted by law and desired by the city.
*The article was updated to clarify the timeframe, which originally stated six years. The nuisance abatement case began six years ago in 2015, but the issues with defamation, false narratives, and threats occurred over a three-year period.