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Justice Unrealized


Seattle’s eviction process features progressive policies and programs, including just- cause ordinances, limited dissemination legislation, “clean hands” regulations, and a limited-service legal clinic for low-income tenants. In spite of this, nearly 60% of cases result in default judgements against the tenant, and the majority that do not default are ruled in favor of the landlord. Moreover, the people most affected by eviction are low- income and non-white. This dissonance—“progressive” legislation and high tenant default rates— prompts us to explore the inequities within the eviction process in the hopes of remediation. Through analyzing the eviction timeline, tracing the legislative history and examining legal roots of landlord-tenant law, I argue that the inequity is based in the systemic power differences of class, which structurally subordinate the tenant and protect the landlord. The indigent tenant, typically poor and disproportionately non-white, does not succeed in the eviction process because it was not designed for her. Instead, the law functions as a means to protect private property stakes for (usually) affluent, white landlords, who have the financial capital, class-power and linguistic dominance necessary to navigate legal adjudication smoothly. In breaking down this process, I explore policy recommendations that create a semblance of equity. Until then, judgements will be made but no justice will be found, and poverty will reproduce itself for those most marginalized.