King County Sheriff to immediately stop enforcing court-ordered evictions

Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht explained this is not the time to make families more vulnerable.

The King County Sheriff’s Office has announced it will not be enforcing court-ordered evictions in King County while the county is fighting the COVID-19 health crisis.

“This is no time to be putting vulnerable people and families on the street without shelter,” Sheriff Mitzi G. Johanknecht said in a March 17 press release. “I have committed to suspending evictions during this difficult time when we need to embrace our neighbors rather than remove them from their homes.”

A letter to King County Superior Court Presiding Judge James Rogers accompanied the release, noting that deputies in the Sheriff’s Office’s Civil Unit — which handles these sorts of cases — have been redeployed elsewhere, in part to minimize the risk of law enforcement being exposed to the coronavirus.

“Civil evictions can result in situations where deputies risk exposure to the virus because they are not able to maintain social distancing while they are facilitating physical eviction of tenants and their possessions,” Johanknecht wrote, adding that she expects some KCSO staff will need to be quarantined in the near future, which will affect staffing levels and effective emergency response.

“Our Civil Unit will maintain all orders relating to eviction for processing when we can safely devote our resources to this work,” the letter ends. “I… will update the court when we are in a position to resume implementing the Court’s orders on civil evictions. At that time, we can anticipate a backlog while we work through pending eviction orders.”