UPDATE: The Times (finally) got around to covering this development this afternoon. Here’s their story on the temporary restraining order.
I’m not really covering the lawsuit, filed on January 29, by the Orange County Catholic Worker and Carol Sobel’s law firm against Orange County for civil rights violations incurred against homeless human beings living on the bed of the Santa Ana River.1 You can read the initial complaint here to get an idea of what’s going on.
Yesterday afternoon the plaintiffs asked the County when they were going to start arresting people living on the riverbed and the County replied at 5:31 p.m. that arrests would begin today, February 7. Read the entire email exchange here:
Consequently, beginning tomorrow morning, OCSD personnel will begin advising people remaining on the District Santa Ana Riverbed property that they must vacate or may be cited and/or arrested for trespassing.
This prompted the plaintiffs to file an Emergency Request to Stay Arrests with the court. The metadata of that PDF suggests it was written at 5:59 yesterday, about half an hour after the County’s reply. There is a transcription after the break.
This, in turn, prompted the court to issue an Order Granting Temporary Restraining Order forbidding the County from arresting homeless human beings on the riverbed for trespassing, loitering, or camping, until the hearing on February 13. The metadata of that PDF suggests that it was written at 11:11 p.m. yesterday. There is a transcription after the break.
Transcription of an Emergency Request to Stay Arrests:
Plaintiffs file this Emergency Stay Request to block the County from citing and arresting Plaintiffs and others in the riverbed beginning tomorrow morning, Despite the County’s prior representations to the Court that there were no imminent plans to cite or arrest the hundreds of unhoused persons in the Riverbed, the County has now decided to do so.
In response to a query from Plaintiffs counsel, following reports that Sheriff’s Deputies and other County workers started telling people today that arrests were imminent, the County has now confirmed that it intends to cite and arrest people starting tomorrow morning. A true and correct copy of the email notification sent to Plaintiffs’ counsel by the County attorneys is attached as Exhibit A.
Plaintiffs request that the Court issue an emergency order staying the County’s actions. This matter is set for a hearing on the requested Temporary Restraining Order next Tuesday morning. By then, Plaintiffs will be cited, arrested, or wandering the streets without a place to rest.
Because irreparable harm will occur in just a few hours, the Court’s immediate intervention is critical.
Dated: February 6, 2018 Respectfully submitted,
LAW OFFICE OF CAROL A. SOBEL
/s/ Carol A. Sobel
By: CAROL A. SOBEL
Attorneys for Plaintiffs
Transcription of an Order Granting Temporary Restraining Order:
PROCEEDINGS (IN CHAMBERS): ORDER GRANTING TEMPORARY
RESTRAINING ORDER  RE EMERGENCY STAY REQUEST 
Before the Court is Plaintiffs’ Emergency Stay Request (“Request”) (Dkt. 52). Attached to the Request is an email from Senior Assistant Orange County Counsel, indicating that beginning tomorrow morning, Orange County Sheriff’s Department personnel will advise people on the Riverbed to leave, and then cite and arrest for trespassing any person who continues to remain. Request Ex. A. Having reviewed the Request, and the underlying briefing in this case, the Court hereby GRANTS a Temporary Restraining Order against Defendants, pending the hearing set for February 13, 2018.
The Court ENJOINS Defendants from enforcement of any infraction or misdemeanor anti-loitering, trespassing, or camping ordinances or statutes at the Riverbed, in light of these laws not having been enforced for the last year. The Court will allow police presence and will allow arrests for any probation or parole violations and any felonious conduct, to protect the homeless and the residents in the area. The Court will not allow haphazard, hurried enforcement action in an effort to clear the population, in contravention of the fundamental issues that the Court raised in its February 4, 2018 Order, when the Court asked the parties to address—at a preliminary injunction hearing on February 13, 2018—the Court’s concerns “that persons who leave or are evicted from the Riverbed may subsequently be cited by Defendant Cities under those Cities’ anticamping or anti-loitering laws, even though those persons may not be able to find a shelter or other place to sleep.” Order Setting Injunction Hearing (Dkt. 50). In that Order, the Court also welcomed the presentation of evidence at the hearing regarding the circumstances faced by Plaintiffs and those living on the Riverbed, details about Defendant Orange County’s process for clearing the Riverbed, information about the number and background of homeless persons in Orange County and on the Riverbed specifically, and how much and what kind of shelter space is currently available. Id. In addition, the Court welcomed input at the hearing and written briefing from any amicus groups, which may include veterans’ organizations, service providers, abused womens’ protection and housing organizations, and other cities affected by the homelessness crisis in Orange County that are not named as Defendants in this case. Id.
To preserve the ability to hold a hearing on these fundamental issues and to determine whether any further relief is appropriate, the Court issues this emergency relief.
The Clerk shall serve this minute order on the parties.