Phoenix attorney put on probation for evictions cases

PHOENIX (AP) — A Phoenix real estate attorney has been disciplined for filing eviction cases last year against Arizona renters who were protected by the federal CARES Act.

The Arizona Republic reported this week that Scott Clark can continue to practice during a one-year professional probation for filing evictions against protected renters.

The newspaper said Clark is the first attorney to face discipline since it published a 2020 investigation that found 900 evictions were filed against Maricopa County tenants who likely should have been protected by the CARES Act.

Clark said in a written statement to The Republic that “some unintentional errors occurred” with eviction filings during a period when tenants were protected by the act.

He wrote that once he became aware of the errors “we undertook an extensive self-audit” and “this process, together with our interaction with the State Bar, has led to substantive improvements in our processes and procedures.”

The newspaper said its analysis showed Clark’s firm represented the owner of an affordable west Phoenix apartment complex that tried to evict the largest number of renters who were protected by the act in Maricopa County.

Tenants living in 31 of the 263 apartments in the complex faced eviction during that period. Some filings were for other issues, but many were for not paying rent.

The Arizona Supreme Court’s Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee ruled last month Clark didn’t “take steps necessary to identify numerous client properties covered by the CARES Act” and filed “numerous eviction actions” in violation of the law.

Congress passed the CARES Act on March 26, 2020, to help people who were hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic. It barred landlords with federally backed mortgages from evicting tenants before July 26, 2020, for not paying rent.

The court’s disciplinary action follows a recommendation of the State Bar of Arizona.