A recent Los Angeles case reaffirms that a person who files a demand for a jury trial in an unlawful detainer (eviction) action is entitled to a trial by jury even if that person filed a fee waiver.
Elva Silva’s landlord filed an unlawful detainer against her. Ms. Silva filed her answer, a demand for a jury trial and a request to waive court fees. The waiver was granted. On May 30, Ms. Silva’s filed a request to waive additional court fees, and it was granted. The additional waiver of court fees included jury fees and expenses. When Ms. Silva’s case was called for trial, the court asked if jury fees had been paid. Ms. Silva’s attorney informed the court that she had a fee waiver. The court replied that jury fees must be posted at least five days before trial for unlawful detainer cases; if Ms. Silva had a fee waiver then she could request a refund. The court found that Ms. Silva did not deposit jury fees of $150.00, and a court trial was held. The judge held in favor of the landlord. Ms. Silva appealed.
The court of appeal established Ms. Silva had requested and received a fee waiver. The right to a jury trial is guaranteed by the California Constitution and “[t]his right is specifically granted in unlawful detainer cases.” The court of appeal stated that California law did not allow the court to require a jury fee deposit from an indigent party. The court of appeal held “[t]he trial court deprived [Ms. Silva] of her constitutional right to a jury trial.” The decision of the trial court was reversed