Lindsey v. Normet (1972)

One part of the Oregon Forcible Entry and Wrongful Detainer (FED) Statute relating to landlord-tenant relations violates the Equal Protection Clause. Two other parts do not violate the Equal Protection or Due Process Clauses.

Citation: 405 U.S. 56 (1972)
Date decided: Feb 23, 1972
Longer case name: Donald LINDSEY et al., Appellants, v. Dorothea M. NORMET et al.
Law type: Civil
Jurisdiction level:Federal
State of origin: Oregon
Topic(s):Due process, Equal protection, and Landlord-tenant
Lists:Important cases
Attorneys:John H. Clough, Portland, Or., for appellants. Clough was with Multnomah County Legal Aid Bureau (Portland, OR).
Others involved:Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by Delane C. Carpenter for the Pima County Bar Assn.; by Howard W. Dixon, Bruce S. Rogow, and Steven Rappaport for Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc.; by Helen S. White and Gerald D. McGonigle for New Hampshire Legal Assistance; by Michael J. Cody III for Memphis and Shelby County Legal Services Assn., Inc.; by Elizabeth M. Brooks for June Brooks; by Paul L. McKaskle for Western Center on Law and Poverty; by Martin R. Glenn and John G. O’Mara for Legal Aid Society of Louisville; by Andrea M. Alcarese for Legal Aid Bureau, Inc.; by Nancy E. LeBlanc for Community Action for Legal Services, Inc., et al.; and by Franklin Arthur Martens for Allen County Legal Aid Society et al.
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Case Importance

Struck down a part of the Oregon landlord-tenant law but left other parts. Mixed decision.

Case Details

(The syllabus is not part of the opinion, but is a summary prepared by the court reporter as a convenience.)



Appellants, month-to-month tenants of appellee Normet, refused to pay their monthly rent unless certain substandard conditions were remedied, and appellee threatened eviction. Appellants filed a class action seeking a declaratory judgment that the Oregon Forcible Entry and Wrongful Detainer (FED) Statute was unconstitutional on its face, and an injunction against its continued enforcement. Appellants attacked principally (1) the requirement of trial no later than six days after service of the complaint unless security for accruing rent is provided, (2) the limitation of triable issues to the tenant’s default, defenses based on the landlord’s breach of duty to maintain the premises being precluded, and (3) the requirement of posting bond on appeal, with two sureties, in twice the amount of rent expected to accrue pending appellate decision, this bond to be forfeited if the lower court decision is affirmed. The District Court granted the motion to dismiss the complaint, concluding that the statute did not violate the Due Process or the Equal Protection Clause. Held:

1. Neither the early-trial provision nor the limitation on litigable issues is invalid on its face under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 64—69.

(a) The time for trial preparation is not unduly short where the issue is simply whether the tenant has paid or has held over, and the requirement for rent security for a continuance of the action is not irrational or oppressive. Pp. 64—65.

(b) Appellants are not denied due process because rental payments are not suspended while the alleged wrongdoings of the landlord are litigated, as Oregon may treat the tenant’s undertakings and those of the landlord as independent covenants. P. 68.

(c) Appellants are not foreclosed from instituting suit against the landlord and litigating their right to damages and other relief in that action, nor have they shown that Oregon excludes any ‘available’ defenses on the limited questions at issue in an FED suit. Pp. 65—66, 69.

2. Neither the early-trial provision nor the limitation on litigable issues is invalid on its face under the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 69—74.

(a) The State has the power to implement its legitimate objective of achieving rapid and peaceful settlement of possessory disputes between landlord and tenant by enacting special provisions applicable only to such disputes. Pp. 70—73.

(b) Absent constitutional mandate, the assurance of adequate housing and the definition of landlord-tenant relationships is a legislative function. P. 74.

3. The double-bond prerequisite for appealing an FED action does violate the Equal Protection Clause as it arbitrarily discriminates against tenants wishing to appeal from adverse FED decisions. It heavily burdens the statutory right of an FED defendant to appeal and is not necessary to effectuate the State’s purpose of preserving the property at issue. Pp. 74—79.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Last modified: 2022-12-27 12:51
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
Case internal status notes: