On December 23, 2008, several homeless individuals with mental or physical disabilities, represented by attorneys from the ACLU of Southern California, filed a suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, against the City of Laguna Beach, CA, and its Police ...
read more >
On December 23, 2008, several homeless individuals with mental or physical disabilities, represented by attorneys from the ACLU of Southern California, filed a suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, against the City of Laguna Beach, CA, and its Police Department and City Council. The plaintiffs alleged that §18.04.020 of the Laguna Beach Municipal Code, which banned sleeping and camping in public places, violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment by criminalizing the involuntary condition of homelessness. They also alleged that their Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal searches and seizures and Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process were violated, and that the City was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 - 12181, which forbids discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities. The plaintiffs sought preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing the enforcement of the contested local ordinance, and declaratory judgments acknowledging that the Defendants had violated the rights of the Plaintiffs in the manner alleged. They also sought to recover legal costs, including attorneys' fees and expenses.
A year prior to filing the lawsuit, the ACLU of Southern California had initiated discussions with the City of Laguna Beach about changing the ordinance; these discussions were not fruitful. The plaintiffs in their complaint pointed to a report prepared by a City-appointed Homeless Task Force, which found that the wealthy community of Laguna Beach was unique among cities in Orange County, CA in that its homeless population, at the time numbering close to fifty people, consisted almost exclusively of "chronically homeless" individuals--persons with mental or physical disabilities who experience long term or repeated homelessness. The Task Force had also determined that Orange County as a whole and Laguna Beach in particular had insufficient shelter space, which according to the report meant the homeless often had no option but to sleep outdoors. Laguna had no year-round beds available in shelters for the homeless. The City made beds available only intermittently from mid-December through mid-March, with funding available for no more than forty nights during this period. The homeless plaintiffs had been regularly subjected to police harassment and cited for sleeping in public when they had nowhere else to sleep.
On March 3, 2009, the City Council voted to repeal the contested portion of the Laguna Beach Municipal Code. On June 19, 2009, the parties entered a Settlement Agreement, wherein the City agreed to provide plaintiffs' counsel with written notice at least thirty days prior to any City Council public meeting at which action would be proposed to add or revise provisions pertaining to the restriction or prohibition of sleeping or camping in public places within the City. The parties agreed to ask the Court to seal, expunge, or destroy any record created after June 18, 2007, relating to arrests of or citations to the Plaintiffs or any other persons for violating the repealed portion of Laguna Beach Municipal Code §18.04.020. The City agreed to pay the Plaintiffs $9000 in attorneys' fees.
On July 20, 2009, in light of the settlement, the Court issued an order granting the plaintiffs' unopposed motion to have all records created after June 18 relating to arrests or citations under the contested ordinance sealed, expunged, or destroyed. On the same day, the Court (Judge Cormac Carney) ordered the case dismissed, but retained jurisdiction for the three year period of the settlement.Alex Colbert-Taylor - 06/25/2013