McCrory, Arkansas and its police chief are the defendants in a proposed civil rights class action filed over an ordinance banning from the city any mobile home worth less than $7,500, with non-compliant owners facing fines of up to $500 per day. The ordinance, the plaintiffs argue in the 31-page complaint, essentially says that the city of McCrory can banish “some of its poorest residents simply because they are poor.”
The plaintiffs, a couple the case notes as living below the federal poverty line, claim McCrory has ordered them to leave the city simply because they cannot afford a more expensive home and that this banishment is a “drastic punishment” that essentially criminalizes poverty and is forbidden by the Arkansas State Constitution.
“The Ordinance contains no defense based on non-willfulness and no mens rea [intention or knowledge of wrongdoing] or intent requirement, meaning that simply being too poor to afford a more expensive home is sufficient for a violation,” the complaint says.
Further, the lawsuit alleges the defendants’ order does not stem from any legitimate government interest and, despite listing four justifications for its passage (relief of overcrowding, promotion of orderly growth, health, and notification to builders), includes no justification for the wealth-based provision. According to the suit, the defendants have presented no evidence that overcrowding is an existing or even an anticipated problem in McCrory. Similarly, a rationale of “promoting orderly growth” holds no merit either since, the plaintiffs say, a wealth-based banishment does exactly the opposite by essentially excluding rent-paying citizens from living in McCrory.
Lastly, the complaint posits that even if the mobile home ordinance’s authorizations were indeed civil, the law would still lack sufficient process to deprive violators of their protected property rights.
The proposed class outlined by the suit includes all current and future residents of McCrory, Arkansas, who live or will live in mobile homes valued at less than $7,500.