Oct 15

New DC Landlord and Tenant Court Procedures

The Washington, DC Landlord and Tenant Court announced today new procedures meant to reduce the amount of time parties and counsel have to spend waiting in court. All efforts towards this goal are greatly appreciated.

Effective immediately, the court is implementing the following procedures:

· Cases called immediately after roll call: Attorneys requesting nonredeemable or money judgments should not wait in the courtroom after roll call to have those cases called if there are defendants waiting to speak with that attorney outside the courtroom. Requests for nonredeemable and money judgments will be handled when an attorney’s other cases are before the court. If an attorney has no other matters, then his or her requests for nonredeemable and money judgment will be called shortly after roll call.

· Notes: The purpose of a “Note” is to prevent a default from being entered when there is a question as to validity of service on the defendant or when the complaint may not allege facts sufficient, if true, to entitle the plaintiff to possession of the premises. See L&T Rule 11(b). If a plaintiff is not requesting a default, the case does not necessarily need to be called to address the note. Therefore, the new standard practice will be for the courtroom clerk to announce that a note has been attached to a case only when a plaintiff requests a default at roll call. An attorney’s notes will not be called immediately after roll call if defendants are waiting to meet with the attorney.

· IFP Applications: If the applicant receives one of the types of public assistance or health benefits listed in Question #1 of the IFP Application, the applicant may file the IFP with the Clerk’s Office in advance of the initial hearing and a judge will review the application without a hearing. If the applicant does not receive a benefit listed in Question #1, or if the application is filed the same day as another hearing, the current process will not be changed and the application will be reviewed at the hearing.

· Jury Demands and Vacating Initial Hearings by Consent: If a defendant properly has filed a jury demand, the parties may file a consent praecipe vacating the initial hearing and stipulating to a protective order (by agreeing to an amount, scheduling a Bell hearing, or stating that a protective order is not requested). The clerk or IJO will certify the case to the Civil Actions Branch and enter the protective order, without holding a hearing. The court will provide form praecipes for this purpose.

· Interview and Judgment Officer (IJO): Parties are encouraged to use the IJO to perform all of the following functions:

o When one or more party is appearing pro se, the IJO has the authority to:

1. Approve Form 4 and 4a consent judgment praecipes (CJP) signed by all parties.

2. Approve late fees of $10 per month.

3. Enter protective orders requiring payment into the court registry, including protective orders that include a number of varying payment terms.

4. Approve disbursement orders.

5. Accept jury demands and certify cases to the Civil Actions Branch.

o When all parties are represented by an attorney, the IJO has the authority to:

1. Approve all consent judgment agreements, including nonredeemable judgments.

2. Accept jury demands and certify cases to the Civil Actions Branch.

3. Enter protective orders requiring payment into the court registry, including protective orders that include a number of varying payment terms.

4. Enter other consent orders, including:

a. Orders to amend (nonjury cases only).

b. Orders for repairs.

c. Orders related to discovery (nonjury cases only.)

d. Orders to substitute parties (nonjury cases only).

o Among other things, the IJO does not have the authority to approve judgments entered into by a non-attorney on behalf of a party, consolidate cases, approve Applications to Proceed IFP, or continue trials.

In the coming months, more changes may be coming, so it will be important to stay informed as to these updates to make sure that the cases are filed and heard properly.