July 30, 2013

Couple sues Westbrook, police over eviction

A lawsuit alleges two renters never got proper notice and were treated illegally by the city's police.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WESTBROOK — Pine Tree Legal Assistance and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Westbrook couple accusing the Westbrook Police Department of violating their constitutional rights by wrongfully using a no-trespassing order to evict the couple from their apartment earlier this month.

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click image to enlarge

Anne M. Blake and life partner Kevin McBride have filed a lawsuit against the Westbrook Police Department saying they were illegally evicted from their apartment. In this Tuesday, July 30, 2013 photo she sits at a camp, which they built and now live in, near the Maine Turnpike at Exit 8.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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click image to enlarge

Kevin McBride and Anne M. Blake talk about their eviction from their Westbrook apartment and the misery they've had to endure. Pine Tree Legal Assistance and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Westbrook couple accusing the Westbrook Police Department of violating their constitutional rights by wrongfully using a no-trespassing order to evict the couple earlier this month.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

The ACLU of Maine said using no-trespassing orders to short-circuit the process used for evictions is part of a larger problem of authorities in other cities and towns in Maine misusing no-trespassing orders to keep children from visiting their parents in public housing and to keep homeless people from parks and squares.

"Everyone deserves the protection of the law," Zachary Heiden, legal director at the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement. "When the police don't follow the law, it leaves people with nowhere to turn."

The Westbrook lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland last week, accuses the police of improperly issuing a criminal trespass notice against Anne Blake and Kevin McBride to help evict them on July 9 from their second-floor apartment at 277 Main St. in Westbrook.

"We've noted this is a problem in some towns and some housing authorities," said Katherine McGovern, a staff attorney with Pine Tree Legal Assistance, which provides free legal aid to the poor. "We've noted that this is a problem with housing authorities across the country."

The landlords of the property in this case, Marc and Amie LeClerc, had obtained a court eviction judgment against Blake in June but had not filed an eviction complaint against McBride, according to the lawsuit.

Police officers and the landlords intercepted Blake as she returned to the apartment building on July 9 to take care of her grandchildren, who live with her daughter in a different apartment on the first floor of building, Blake said.

"They told me I was criminally trespassing," Blake said.

Police then called McBride, who was at work at McDonald's, to tell him he needed to come to the apartment to help Blake with the eviction, Blake said.

McBride said that when he arrived at the apartment, a female police officer modified the criminal trespass order against Blake by using a pen to cross off Blake's name and write his name in its place before handing him the order.

"I said to her I had not been served with an eviction notice. She said, "You have now,' " McBride said.

The police gave Blake and McBride half an hour to remove their possessions from their apartment. The couple is now homeless.

The lawsuit accuses police of violating Blake and McBride's constitutional rights in several ways by using no-trespassing orders.

The order denied McBride his right, under the 14th Amendment, to appeal being banned from his own home, according to the lawsuit.

The orders also deny Blake and McBride their rights, under the 1st and 14th amendments, to freely associate with their children and grandchildren at the building and denies them access to their property there, the lawsuit alleges.

"Maine law requires that tenants be given fair warning of an impending eviction, an opportunity to contest the grounds of eviction, and a chance to move their belongings out of their apartment," McGovern said. "Our client Kevin McBride got none of these things. Instead, he and his partner were insulted by the police for being poor and were told that they had a half-hour to retrieve their belongings."

(Continued on page 2)

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