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Case Name Mitchell v. City of Los Angeles PN-CA-0038
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-01750 ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Policing
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
On March 14, 2016, several homeless individuals, one with a disability, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, against the City of Los Angeles seeking injunctive relief and damages pursuant to U.S.C. § 1983 and based upon the alleged continuing ... read more >
On March 14, 2016, several homeless individuals, one with a disability, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, against the City of Los Angeles seeking injunctive relief and damages pursuant to U.S.C. § 1983 and based upon the alleged continuing violation of the plaintiff’s rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs alleged that starting at least as early as December 2015, the Los Angeles Police Department had a policy, custom, or practice of arresting homeless individuals for non-violent quality of life crimes (such as sitting/sleeping/lying on the sidewalk, or using, possession, or removing without authorization shopping carts that have affixed to them a sign identifying the private business owners). In arresting homeless persons for these quality-of-life crimes, which the plaintiffs alleged would otherwise be charged as infractions (and therefore not justify the arrest of the individuals charged), the LAPD seized and destroyed the homeless individuals' property. The property that has been disposed of includes: blankets, tents, shoes, clothing, medications, medical assistance equipment such as walkers, diabetes testing machines/nebulizers, personal documents, and other items. The plaintiffs further alleged that after the arrestee was taken into custody, the arrestee was not given a chance to identify or reclaim their items. If the property was saved at all, officers and city employees did not take care to ensure that only the arrestees' property was bagged and tagged, resulting in the commingling of multiple arrestees' property. The property was also oftentimes not transported in a timely way to the "excess property warehouse," making it difficult for homeless arrestees to obtain any property spared destruction. Plaintiffs were represented by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and by private counsel.

Plaintiffs stated the following causes of action: the right to be free from unreasonable seizure of their property by confiscating and then destroying property without a warrant, the right to be free from false arrest, and the right to have their personal property protected in custody. Plaintiffs alleged that they were given no notice of their property being at risk of being seized and/or destroyed and were not given an opportunity to reclaim their property in a timely manner. By taking and destroying the medicine, tents, tarps, and blankets of the plaintiffs, plaintiffs claimed, the defendants exposed the plaintiffs to the elements in the winter without adequate shelter on the streets.

All this, the plaintiffs claimed, violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and a number of state law provisions, including: California Civil Code §51, California Civil Code §52.1, California Civil Code §2080, and California Government Code §11135. The complaint also stated counts for common law conversion and false arrest.

The plaintiffs requested a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction enjoining and restraining defendants from engaging in the discriminatory policies and practices, as well as declaratory judgment that the defendants' policies violate plaintiffs' rights under the US and California constitutions and the laws of California. The plaintiffs additionally requested an order directing defendants to provide replacement items for the property they have destroyed, including: blankets, tents, tarps medications, replacements of critical personal documents, etc. The plaintiffs additionally requested damages and attorneys' fees.

On March 30, 2016, the plaintiff filed an ex parte application for a Temporary Restraining Order as to enjoin further property destruction by the defendants.

On March 31, 2016, Judge Philip Gutierrez declined to have the case transferred to him; the judge explained that Lavan v. City of Los Angeles, which was pending before him, was not sufficiently factually related to this case to justify a transfer.

On April 1, 2016, Judge James Otero granted the city defendants’ request for more time to file a written opposition to the plaintiffs’ TRO application.

On April 5, 2016 the plaintiffs filed a Motion to Dismiss, set for hearing on April 9, 2016.

On April 13, 2016, Judge Otero granted the plaintiffs’ application for a preliminary injunction. The order enjoyed the city of Los Angeles and its agents from confiscating property in Skid Row absent “an objectively reasonable belief that it is abandoned, presents an immediate threat tot public health/safety, is evidence of a crime, or is contraband,” destroying property, storing seized property in a facility not open during business hours, failing to provide notice of seized property of address where it is located, storing the property in a way that does not clearly catalog and segregate it, storing it in a facility that is not accessible within 72 hours of seizure. Medication and blankets/sleeping stuff must be accessible within 24 hours, and city must provide 24 hours advance notice to homeless population of cleanup and possible seizure of property

On May 6, 2016, Judge Otero granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs' causes of action for false arrest and conversation were dismissed without leave to amend.

On May 11, 2016, the defendants filed a motion for a clarification of the Court’s Order of April 13, 2016 issuing a preliminary injunction. The parties then entered into settlement negotiations. The settlement negotiations seem to continue to be frustrated by Defendants' requests for clarification on the Court's Order of April 12, 2016.

On December 4, 2017 the Judge ordered the case to a mediation panel for mediation.

As of March 23, 2018 case is ongoing.

Julie Aust - 02/06/2017
- 05/28/2017
Will McCartney - 03/23/2018

compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Required disclosure
Mobility impairment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Excessive force
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
False arrest
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
State law
Defendant(s) City of Los Angeles
Plaintiff Description Several homeless individuals, one with a disability, who had their property confiscated on their arrest. Also two non-profit organizations that serve homeless people.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2016 - n/a
Filing Year 2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
2:16-cv-1750 (C.D. Cal.)
PN-CA-0038-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/04/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Civil Rights Complaint [ECF# 1]
PN-CA-0038-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/14/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 9]
PN-CA-0038-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/17/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order re: Transfer Pursuant to General Order 14-03 (Related Cases) [ECF# 27] (C.D. Cal.)
PN-CA-0038-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/31/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Plaintiff's Application for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 51] (C.D. Cal.)
PN-CA-0038-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/12/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 57] (C.D. Cal.)
PN-CA-0038-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
City of Los Angeles' Notice of Motion and Motion for Clarification of Order [ECF# 58]
PN-CA-0038-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/11/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Gutierrez, Philip S. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
Otero, S. James (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0004 | PN-CA-0038-0005 | PN-CA-0038-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gaytan, Fernando (California) show/hide docs
Hoffman, Paul L. (California) show/hide docs
Mullen, Colleen Marika (California) show/hide docs
Myers, Shayla Renee (California) show/hide docs
Schneeweis, Justine Marie (California) show/hide docs
Sobel, Carol A. (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0001 | PN-CA-0038-0002 | PN-CA-0038-9000
Sweetser, Catherine Elizabeth (California) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Brown, Eric (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0006 | PN-CA-0038-9000
Feuer, Michael (California) show/hide docs
Pessis, Surekha A. (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0006 | PN-CA-0038-9000

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