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Case Name Mitchell v. City of Los Angeles PN-CA-0038
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-01750 ( C.D. Cal. )
Additional Docket(s) 19-cv-56143  [ 19-56143 ]  Federal Court of Appeals
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
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) and two organizations that help homeless individuals filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the City of Los Angeles, seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and ... read more >
On March 14, 2016, several homeless individuals (one with a disability) and two organizations that help homeless individuals filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the City of Los Angeles, seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages under 28 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and state law. The plaintiffs alleged continuing violations of the plaintiffs' rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs were represented by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and by private counsel. The plaintiffs alleged that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had begun to arrest homeless residents of the Skid Row area for quality of life infractions and to seize or destroy the homeless residents' property.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that starting at least as early as December 2015, the LAPD had begun arresting homeless individuals for non-violent quality of life crimes -- such as sitting, sleeping, or lying on the sidewalk or keeping shopping carts from private businesses -- that would otherwise be charged as infractions and not result in arrest. After arrest, the LAPD seized and destroyed the homeless individuals' property, including blankets, clothing, medications, walkers, diabetes testing machines/nebulizers, personal documents, and other items. The plaintiffs further alleged that after an 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 commingled multiple arrestees' property because the seized property was not bagged or labeled. The City allegedly delayed sending the arrestees' property to the "excess property warehouse," making it difficult for the arrestees to get their property back. The plaintiffs also 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. The plaintiffs alleged that, by taking and destroying the medicine, tents, tarps, and blankets of the plaintiffs, 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, 52.1, and 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 the defendants from engaging in the discriminatory policies and practices, as well as declaratory judgment that the defendants' policies violated the plaintiffs' rights under the U.S. and California Constitutions and the laws of California. The plaintiffs additionally requested an order directing defendants to provide replacement items for the property they had destroyed, including blankets, tents, tarps medications, and critical personal documents. The plaintiffs additionally requested damages and attorneys' fees.

On March 31, 2016, Judge Philip Gutierrez declined to have the case transferred to him. Judge Gutierrez 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 13, 2016, Judge S. James Otero granted the plaintiffs' application for a preliminary injunction. The order enjoined 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 to public health/safety, is evidence of a crime, or is contraband." The preliminary injunction also enjoined the City from destroying property, storing seized property in a facility not open during business hours, failing to provide notice of where seized property was located, failing to clearly catalog and segregate seized property in storage, and failing to make seized property available for reclamation within 72 hours of seizure. The injunction also required that medication, blankets, and other sleeping materials be accessible within 24 hours of seizure. Finally, the City was required to provide notice to the homeless residents of the area at least 24 hours in advance of planned cleaning operations. 2016 WL 11519288.

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. 2016 WL 11519289. On May 11, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to clarify the terms of the preliminary injunction. Judge Otero clarified the area covered by the injunction and noted that the injunction did not forbid the City from removing property in general as part of its cleanup efforts, or from removing "bulky items" from the street and destroying them if they posed a threat to public health or safety. The parties then entered into settlement negotiations, as the defendants continued to request clarification of the preliminary injunction as to removing property from the street generally and removing and storing bulky items in particular. On September 25, 2017, Judge Otero decided that the injunction required no more clarification than he had already provided and that the defendants were inappropriately attempting to argue constitutional questions using the motion to clarify. 2017 WL 10545079.

On December 4, 2017, the Judge ordered the case to a mediation panel. On March 6, 2019, the City Attorney of Los Angeles was authorized to settle the case. On May 31, 2019, the April 13, 2016 preliminary injunction was dissolved entirely and the case dismissed with prejudice because the parties had reached a settlement agreement.

Under the Settlement Agreement, the City of Los Angeles agreed to immediately pay the plaintiffs $645,000 in damages and attorneys' fees. The City also agreed to not seize property in the Skid Row area unless the property was reasonably believed to be abandoned, a threat to public health or safety, or was contraband. The City could not perform large street cleaning operations unless the City first gave the homeless residents 24 hours notice, 30 minutes of warning before cleaning began, and only if it was not cold or raining on the day of the cleaning. Homeless residents could obtain their medical equipment and medications after cleaning had begun if they so requested before the police bagged them for storage. If property was seized, the City had to post a notice of where it was being stored and mark the seized property with the owner's name. These provisions did not apply to large furniture or appliances, such as mattresses, couches, or barbecues. The City was able to move property if it obstructed access to a building. But the City was obligated to help a homeless person move their property if the homeless person was physically unable to comply with a request to move it. The non-monetary terms of the Settlement were to be enforced by the Court for three years (starting on May 31, 2019), with the option to extend the Agreement if both parties request it.

On June 24, 2019, the DTLA Alliance for Human Rights and fourteen individuals represented by the DTLA Alliance moved to intervene in the case, objecting to the May 31, 2019 settlement agreement. Specifically, the intervenors argued that their interests were diametrically opposed to the terms of the settlement. All of the individuals were residents or business owners in the Skid Row area and wanted property removed from the sidewalks because they feared increased crime or disease unless the property was removed. For more information on reactions to the settlement from the LA Times, see here.

Judge Otero denied the motion to intervene, noting that the underlying case had been dismissed on May 31, 2019 and thus the court lacked jurisdiction over the motion because there was nothing to intervene in. The Settlement Agreement did not bind any parties other than the named plaintiffs and defendants, so the intervenors were free to challenge the settlement on their own. DTLA Alliance appealed to the 9th Circuit on September 26, 2019. The plaintiffs and defendants from the original suit are now the appellees before the 9th Circuit.

On October 24, 2019, the 9th Circuit's mediator released the parties from the court's Mediation Program. The case is ongoing, with initial briefs due by December 30, 2019. Arguments have not been scheduled as of November 2019.

Julie Aust - 02/06/2017
- 05/28/2017
Will McCartney - 03/23/2018
Olivia Wheeling - 11/14/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Takings
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief granted
Recordkeeping
Required disclosure
Warrant/order for search or seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Disability
Mental impairment
Mobility impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Excessive force
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
False arrest
Forfeiture
Improper treatment of mentally ill suspects
Loss or damage to property
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pattern or Practice
Poverty/homelessness
Record-keeping
Mental Disability
Mental Illness, Unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Non-court arbitration/mediation
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
State law
Defendant(s) City of Los Angeles
Plaintiff Description Several homeless individuals in Los Angeles, one with a disability, who had their property confiscated on their arrest and two non-profit organizations that serve homeless people in Los Angeles.
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
Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration 2019 - 2022
Filed 03/14/2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PN-CA-0041 : Lavan v. City of Los Angeles (C.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
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]
Stipulated Order of Dismissal [ECF# 119] (C.D. Cal.)
PN-CA-0038-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/31/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motion to Intervene for Lack of Jurisdiction [ECF# 127] (C.D. Cal.)
PN-CA-0038-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/27/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Gutierrez, Philip S. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0003
Otero, S. James (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0004 | PN-CA-0038-0005 | PN-CA-0038-0007 | PN-CA-0038-0008 | PN-CA-0038-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gaytan, Fernando (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-9000
Hoffman, Paul L. (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-9000
Mullen, Colleen Marika (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-9000
Myers, Shayla Renee (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0007 | PN-CA-0038-9000
Schneeweis, Justine Marie (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-9000
Sobel, Carol A. (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0001 | PN-CA-0038-0002 | PN-CA-0038-0007 | PN-CA-0038-9000
Sweetser, Catherine Elizabeth (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0007 | PN-CA-0038-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brown, Eric (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0006 | PN-CA-0038-9000
Feuer, Michael (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0006
Lebron, Felix (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0007
Pessis, Surekha A. (California) show/hide docs
PN-CA-0038-0006 | PN-CA-0038-9000

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