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Enough with the legal battles over L.A.'s skid row homeless

June 25, 2013|By Sandra Hernandez
  • The skid row area of downtown Los Angeles.
The skid row area of downtown Los Angeles. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

That the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in a case involving the homeless and their possessions on L.A.'s skid row is hardly surprising. After all, the city has been fighting the same battle for more than 20 years. And each time the city has been sued over its policies on skid row, it has lost or the policies have been blocked by a state or federal judge.

The city had requested that the high court consider striking down a temporary court order that bars it from seizing and destroying the unattended belongings of the homeless in downtown’s skid row. But on Monday, the court let stand a ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that barred such seizures.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich's argument before the appeals court had been unimpressive, amounting to little more than that the homeless were seeking to use the sidewalks as personal storage areas, something other residents were not allowed to do.

Such reasoning makes no legal or practical sense. Though it may be true that other residents in the city are not permitted to leave their belongings on the sidewalk, the homeless, by definition, have no other place to store their possessions if they go indoors to eat, shower or seek information from social service providers.

Moreover, the appellate court noted that any individual -- homeless or not -- were protected from unreasonable seizures under the 4th Amendment.

Fortunately, what happens next is no longer up to Trutanich. Next week the city will have a new mayor, a new city council and a new city attorney. Hopefully they will rethink the city's strategy and negotiate a solution that addresses the needs of area business owners and residents and the homeless on skid row.


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