The footage of a family being evicted looked like a scene straight out of Bad Boys, Friday night. The chaos unfolded when an army of mostly white cops began arresting anyone in their way, starting with Assemblyman Demond Meeks. Meeks found himself on the other side of the law as he filmed police officers gearing up to enforce an eviction warrant, protesters and activists attempted to stop. According to reports, Clianda Florence-Yarde withheld rent because of various code violations, an expired certificate of occupancy, and a rodent problem at 57 Glasgow Street in Cornhill. The property currently has eight outstanding violations and fines listed on the Rochester Property Information website. The landlord, who is identified as John Trickey, has several complaints online as well. Commenters who claim to be previous renters labeled him as a "Slumlord" and "Despicable person".
Unfortunately, none of that mattered when cops placed the mother of three in handcuffs and off to an awaiting police car. It is unclear if there was a standoff or how long the officers were there before filming began. But, what is clear is RPD answers to no one outside of the department. These men have marching orders and showed up to do a job, not negotiate. Judge Michael Lopez is the person who put the action in order to have a mother and her three children removed from their home days before Christmas. Although details are limited as to what happened during the court proceedings, we know the judge has the power to do as he pleases.
So, here's what we know about Judge Michael Lopez. In July 2020, Olean Times Herald published that Lopez is one of over a hundred judges that signed a letter saying that there is much work to be done to ensure racial equity in the courts, and they are committed to just treatment for all. Each day we seek to dispel any narrative or belief that looks upon courts as instruments of injustice, by treating each person fairly and impartially while upholding our oaths to the constitutions of the State of New York and the United States.
”However, there is much work to be done, and we like all judges must be mindful of the impact of systemic racism or bias in fulfilling the court’s responsibility to ensure equal justice to all under the law,” the letter stated.
Lopez said the letter is a start, and he wants to see the courts find ways to address implicit bias within the courtroom ranks.
”I am highly concerned about whether the powers-that-be that oversee the legal system are genuinely prepared to make the hard decisions that are necessary to remedy the disparity that exists from top to bottom,” he said. “We’re seeing some token measures, but it’s clear that the public will not stand for mere token measures.”
Lopez said he was pleased the New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has launched an independent review of the state courts to try to identify and eliminate institutional racism within the system. The letter signed by judges is an indication that judges across New York share concerns about court operations, Lopez said.
”Hopefully letters like this are ways of beginning the conversation,” said Lopez.
Now, the question is, is Judge Lopez following the oath he took or merely pretending courts are ready to unravel systemic racism? Back in January, a white woman named Linda Barger, who has serious health issues found herself in a similar situation. City Newspaper reported, Barger lamented the long list of problems with her place. The shoddily-repaired wall. The lack of lightbulbs in an overhead fixture and mice.
However, Judge Michael Lopez ordered Barger’s landlord, Baridi Viator, to repair her apartment, address the mouse, insect infestations and gave him 60 days to fix the problems. He also barred Viator from collecting rent from Barger until he gets a certificate of occupancy for the building from the city. The certificate expired in 2017. Did Judge Lopez order Mr. Trickey to correct the code violations or banned him from collecting rent due to an expired certificate of occupancy? These cases appear to be similar, yet two very different outcomes took place.