Sitka Superior Court Judge Jude Pate ruled Tuesday that he’s not quite ready to evict James Barrett from his home on Harris Street, saying he’d like to learn more about the current state of the property.
Barrett resides at 401 Harris Street, a property that has garnered considerable police attention in recent years. In a public meeting in July, Juneau Police Department Chief Ed Mercer said there have been more than 400 calls to police in the 400 block of Harris Street in the past two years. There have been two raids of the house and a shooting incident in the past year, and neighbors have complained of noise, parking issues and visible drug use in recent years.
Barrett co-owns the home with his mother Kathleen, who lives in Seattle. Earlier this year, Kathleen filed for a partition from James on the property, which would give her control of the property. Dave d’Amato, who holds power of attorney for Kathleen, said in court Tuesday that Kathleen wants to take control of the house, evict James and buy him a new home away from where he is.
Joe Josephson, an Anchorage-based attorney who is representing Kathleen in the case against James, requested in court Tuesday that Pate issue a court order to evict James sometime in the next 60 days. Pate, who was present telephonically, said he wanted to learn more about the state of the house before ordering an eviction. James was not present Tuesday.
Pate’s court order Tuesday was to have d’Amato tour the Harris Street house and report back to him. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, d’Amato will tour the house with a police escort, City and Borough of Juneau Building Official Charlie Ford and Capital City Fire/Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Sven Pearson, Pate ordered.
They will then report back to Pate with just how dire the state of the property is in terms of building and fire code regulations. It wasn’t what Josephson was asking for, but he said he was fine with the pace.
“I think we’re making progress,” Josephson said in an interview after the hearing. “We have a thoughtful judge. He heard from the community and I think the injunction he is giving is helpful because it will allow Mr. d’Amato and the city officials to get inside the building and see what’s happening.”
The main question Pate had was whether allowing James to live in the home would cause “irreparable harm” to Kathleen. Part of approving a partition, Pate explained, is finding that one of the owners would suffer irreparable harm.
d’Amato argued that allowing James to stay in the house would likely result in further damage to the house — which d’Amato said has deteriorated significantly in the past 20 years or so. Further damage to the house, d’Amato argued, could result in the city seizing the property and Kathleen having to engage in a legal battle with the city. d’Amato pointed to a very recent example.
Earlier this month, Kathleen and the CBJ reached an agreement that Kathleen would pay $1.5 million to the city to recoup the cost of demolishing the Gastineau Apartments, which were deemed a public nuisance before the city tore the buildings down in 2016. The apartments caught fire in 2012, then caught fire again in 2015 when the building was left in disrepair.
d’Amato argued that James didn’t take any action to work with the city through that process, and that history could repeat itself with the Harris Street house.
“If we don’t take any decisive action to get Mr. Barrett out, Mrs. Barrett — the co-owner of the house, the principal payer of the house — might lose this house just as she’s lost her Gastineau Apartments. … That was all based on inaction of Mr. Barrett and it protracted judicial proceedings,” d’Amato said.
Ford and Pearson will share their thoughts on any possible code or fire violations for the Harris Street house after their tour of the property. Pate didn’t schedule a specific time for d’Amato to tour the property, but said it must happen before 8:30 a.m. Sept. 6, when the next court hearing is scheduled.
More than a dozen residents who live near the Harris Street house were present for Tuesday’s two-hour hearing. A few of them testified, saying they felt uncomfortable and unsafe walking near the house and saying they’ve seen patrons of the house using drugs behind the nearby church.
James has not been very responsive through this process, both d’Amato and Josephson said. Pate ruled that if James doesn’t show up for the Sept. 6 hearing, Pate will order police to pick James up and bring him in.
Josephson said there was another odd element to this case. James wrote to Josephson saying that now is a bad time to evict him because he’s working on developing machinery in his basement to start a business. Depending on what exactly this endeavor is, Josephson said, James could be in violation of the city code if he’s using machinery of a certain size.
“In his paperwork, he didn’t say (what the business was),” Josephson said, “but he’s made it known that what he’s trying to do is find new methods to extract gold from fragments left around Juneau in the hills, or something like that.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.