Tag Archives: Illegal Confiscation of Property

Rebecca Cooley v. City Of Los Angeles — On October 21, 2018 Carol Sobel Filed Yet Another Federal Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles — Alleging The Illegal Confiscation And Destruction Of The Property Of Rebecca Cooley, Benjamin Hubert, And Casimir Zoroda — Three Disabled Homeless People Living In Venice At The Time — Seeks Class Action Status For Approximately 60 Others Similarly Situated

On October 21, 2018 Carol Sobel filed suit in federal court against the City of Los Angeles on behalf of three named homeless people along with about sixty others similarly situated. The three, Rebecca Cooley, her husband Benjamin Hubert, and Casimir Zaroda, are homeless people who were living on the streets in Venice in September 2017 when the City of Los Angeles, without notice and without any kind of process, confiscated and destroyed their property, including tents, blankets, essential paperwork, transit passes, and other items essential to the maintenance of human life. The suit comes just as the City is resuming its horrific, indiscriminate sweeps of homeless encampments outside of neighborhoods covered by the various injunctions.

The initial complaint claims that the City’s actions violate constitutional bans on takings and on unlawful seizure as well as the constitutional guarantee of due process. These familiar theories have been consistently upheld by federal courts up to and including the Ninth Circuit,1 all of which have been willing to issue and/or uphold injunctions against the City’s property confiscation and destruction policies. So it’s hard to imagine that the City can prevail on these issues.

Also, because two of the three named plaintiffs are disabled along with many of the similarly situated unnamed plaintiffs, the complaint also alleges that the City violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by confiscating their essential papers and means of transportation, by storing confiscated property in locations and facilities not properly accessible to disabled people, and, in general, by following policies and practices with respect to homeless people’s property that disproportionately burden disabled people.

Turn the page for transcriptions of selections from the initial complaint.
Continue reading Rebecca Cooley v. City Of Los Angeles — On October 21, 2018 Carol Sobel Filed Yet Another Federal Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles — Alleging The Illegal Confiscation And Destruction Of The Property Of Rebecca Cooley, Benjamin Hubert, And Casimir Zoroda — Three Disabled Homeless People Living In Venice At The Time — Seeks Class Action Status For Approximately 60 Others Similarly Situated

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Rex Schellenberg v. City Of Los Angeles — In September 2018 Carol Sobel Filed Yet Another Federal Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles — Alleging Summary Confiscation And Destruction Of The Property Of An Elderly Disabled Homeless Man — And Seeking An Injunction Against These Practices — For Some Reason This Has Not Been Covered At All In The Media — Read The Initial Complaint Here

On September 3, 2018 Carol Sobel filed suit in federal court against the City of Los Angeles, alleging that Rex Schellenberg, a homeless man living in the San Fernando Valley, stepped away from his property briefly only to have it confiscated and much of it destroyed by the LAPD and LA Sanitation personnel. I can’t find anything about this case in the media, in contrast to Sobel’s other pending case on the matter, Mitchell v. City of LA, which is covered extensively. You can read and get copies of the pleadings here on Archive.Org. I’ll update the collection as more stuff is filed.

The facts of the case are simple. Schellenberg, an elderly man homeless in Los Angeles for more than twenty years and disabled as well, lives in the San Fernando Valley. In July 2017 he left his property momentarily unattended to visit a convenience store and employees of the City of Los Angeles summarily confiscated and destroyed Schellenberg’s neatly stored possessions. In its monumental decision in Lavan v. City of LA, the Ninth Circuit had this to say about this practice:

As we have repeatedly made clear, “[t]he government may not take property like a thief in the night; rather, it must announce its intentions and give the property owner a chance to argue against the taking.” This simple rule holds regardless of whether the property in question is an Escalade or [a tent], a Cadillac or a cart. The City demonstrates that it completely misunderstands the role of due process by its contrary suggestion that homeless persons instantly and permanently lose any protected property interest in their possessions by leaving them momentarily unattended in violation of a municipal ordinance. As the district court recognized, the logic of the City’s suggestion would also allow it to seize and destroy cars parked in no-parking zones left momentarily unattended.

As with all of Sobel’s writing, the initial complaint makes compelling reading. You can get a copy of the PDF here, or turn the page for a transcription of selections.
Continue reading Rex Schellenberg v. City Of Los Angeles — In September 2018 Carol Sobel Filed Yet Another Federal Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles — Alleging Summary Confiscation And Destruction Of The Property Of An Elderly Disabled Homeless Man — And Seeking An Injunction Against These Practices — For Some Reason This Has Not Been Covered At All In The Media — Read The Initial Complaint Here

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LA Catholic Worker et al. V. City of LA, CCEA Settlement Terms To Go Before Full Council In Closed Session On June 14

The momentous 2014 lawsuit by LA Catholic Worker and the LA Community Action Network against the Central City East Association and the City of Los Angeles has been in the settlement process for more than six months now.1 The Central City East Association settled what seems like ages ago. The City of Los Angeles claimed in December that settlement terms had been reached, and then nothing happened for months.
Continue reading LA Catholic Worker et al. V. City of LA, CCEA Settlement Terms To Go Before Full Council In Closed Session On June 14

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LA Catholic Worker V. City Of Los Angeles Lawsuit Settlement Agreement Scheduled For Budget And Finance Committee Closed Session On Monday, June 5, 2017

The momentous 2014 lawsuit by LA Catholic Worker and the LA Community Action Network against the Central City East Association and the City of Los Angeles has been in the settlement process for more than six months now.1 Most recently, in March, the terms of CCEA’s part of the settlement were finalized by the court.2 Documents filed with the court as early as last December have announced that the terms of a settlement with the City of Los Angeles had been agreed on and were just pending City Council approval.

Well, Council is finally poised to approve the settlement terms. The matter is on the books as Council File 16-1449, and is scheduled for a closed session on Monday, June 5 at 2 p.m. in Room 1010 of City Hall at the Budget and Finance Committee. As is required by the Brown Act there will be an opportunity for public comment before the closed session. My feeling is that this is a fait accompli and not worth my time to attend, but you should certainly decide for yourself about that.

Given the fairly glacial pace at which the City has been moving, and given the fact that federal district courts move very slowly as well, it will probably be a while before the specific terms of the settlement with the City become public. However, given the stringent terms agreed to by the CCEA, this settlement is likely to include at the very least further restrictions on the City’s ability to enforce its reprehensible personal property ordinance, LAMC §56.11, and probably a lengthy period of oversight by the court as well. Stay tuned for details!
Continue reading LA Catholic Worker V. City Of Los Angeles Lawsuit Settlement Agreement Scheduled For Budget And Finance Committee Closed Session On Monday, June 5, 2017

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Huge News: LA Community Action Network Lawsuit Against Central City East Association and City Of LA Poised To Settle, CCEA Agrees To Specific, Extensive Restrictions On Homeless Property Confiscation, Will Pay $25,000 To LAFLA In Damages, Legal Fees, And Costs. City Of LA Settlement Expected To Go To City Council Soon, LAMC 56.11 Enforcement Likely To Be Severely Attenuated

News of a settlement in the momentous lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles on behalf of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the LA Catholic Worker, and a number of individuals over the confiscation of homeless people’s property by BID and by City, has been rumbling around PACER for about one year now. Well, yesterday evening, the first concrete details of the ongoing settlement process arrived. The parties filed a joint report indicating that concrete terms had been reached with both CCEA and the City of Los Angeles. The City of LA part still has to be approved by City Council, but according to the document, this is likely to happen within 45 days.

On the other hand, amazingly, the proposed agreement between the CCEA and the plaintiffs has actually been filed! It must still be approved by Judge Philip Gutierrez, but it strikes me as extraordinarily unlikely that it would not be. The agreement severely restricts the circumstances under which the BID can confiscate property. The terms of this part of the settlement make it seem very likely that the City will agree to severe restrictions in its enforcement of LAMC 56.11, the property confiscation ordinance, at least on Skid Row. CCEA will also pay LAFLA $25,000 for damages, fees, and costs. Turn the page for some details of what the CCEA has agreed to.
Continue reading Huge News: LA Community Action Network Lawsuit Against Central City East Association and City Of LA Poised To Settle, CCEA Agrees To Specific, Extensive Restrictions On Homeless Property Confiscation, Will Pay $25,000 To LAFLA In Damages, Legal Fees, And Costs. City Of LA Settlement Expected To Go To City Council Soon, LAMC 56.11 Enforcement Likely To Be Severely Attenuated

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Hearing on City of LA’s Motion to Clarify Otero’s Injunction Postponed Again, Now Scheduled for August 15 at 10 am

California-central(See Gale Holland’s excellent story in the Times on Mitchell v. LA as well as our other stories on the subject for the background to this post).

Recall that in April, Judge Otero issued an injunction in relation to the confiscation of the property of homeless people on Skid Row. The City of Los Angeles, meanwhile, professes not to understand the injunction and has filed a motion for clarification of the order. A scheduled hearing on this motion was postponed once and today all parties filed a joint stipulation asking for another postponement and the Judge filed an order granting the request. The hearing is now scheduled for Monday, August 15, at 10 a.m. in Otero’s courtroom downtown.1 The stated reason is that productive mediation in front of Magistrate Judge Carla Woehrle is both fruitful and ongoing.

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City of LA Files Answer in Mitchell, Hearing on Order to Clarify Injunction Postponed to July 25

City of LA's cut and paste response to Mitchell complaint.  TL;DR: Either we didn't do it or they didn't say we did so we don't even have to say we didn't.
City of LA’s cut and paste response to Mitchell complaint. TL;DR: Either we didn’t do it or they didn’t say we did so we don’t even have to say we didn’t.
(See Gale Holland’s excellent story in the Times on Mitchell v. LA as well as our other stories on the subject for the background to this post).

On May 201 the City of Los Angeles filed its response to the complaint in Mitchell v. Los Angeles. It’s 13 pages of unenlightening denial, punctuated only with an occasional “they didn’t accuse us of anything so we’re not even gonna deny it” moment. Also, the parties are negotiating something, and evidently it’s going well, so yesterday they jointly asked the judge to put off the hearing on the City’s motion for a clarification of Otero’s injunction against the City. Well, evidently they showed good reason, because today Otero filed an order granting the continuance and that hearing is now scheduled for July 25.
Continue reading City of LA Files Answer in Mitchell, Hearing on Order to Clarify Injunction Postponed to July 25

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City of Los Angeles asks Judge Otero to Clarify Last Month’s Preliminary Injunction Against Full Enforcement of LAMC 56.11

California-central(See Gale Holland’s excellent story in the Times on Mitchell v. LA as well as our other stories on the subject for the background to this post).

Recall that last month Judge Otero issued a preliminary injunction forbidding the City of Los Angeles from confiscating the property of homeless people in and/or around Skid Row without following required due process. Today the City filed a motion asking Otero to clarify what he meant. They also filed a proposed order for the Judge’s signature which, I imagine, is mostly of value here as it shows what the City wishes the injunction means.

Additionally the city filed a map of Skid Row, a copy of LAMC 56.11, and a declaration of Scott Marcus, the assistant chief of the Civil Litigation Branch of the City Attorney’s office. Marcus’s main point seems to be that he met with Carol Sobel for four hours in the company of Magistrate Judge Carla Woerhle and they couldn’t come to a common understanding about what the order meant.
Continue reading City of Los Angeles asks Judge Otero to Clarify Last Month’s Preliminary Injunction Against Full Enforcement of LAMC 56.11

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Court Finds Plaintiffs’ Arguments Likely to Succeed on their Merits, Issues Preliminary Injunction Limiting Confiscation of Homeless People’s Property on Skid Row

Judge James Otero issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the City of LA from wantonly confiscating homeless people's property on Skid Row.
Judge James Otero issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the City of LA from wantonly confiscating homeless people’s property on Skid Row.
Judge James Otero just today issued an order granting an injunction prohibiting the City of Los Angeles from confiscating the property of homeless people living on Skid Row without following a detailed procedure meant to protect their property rights. In order to grant this order, Otero had to find that the claims of the plaintiffs against the City were likely to succeed, and this he did. In particular, he analyzed the evidence that the City submitted in opposition to the request for a restraining order and stated unequivocally that “The counterevidence submitted by Defendants, including the videos, are at best inconclusive.” This strikes my (uninformed) eye as a fairly bad start to the City’s defense of this case, which is a fairly good omen for justice, fairness, and humanity in this City of Angels.

You can see the conditions under which the City is allowed to confiscate property after the break, but they seem to be essentially the conditions (notification, health hazards, storage for 90 days, etc.) that are already prescribed by LAMC 56.11. My superficial reading of the situation is that he’s ordering them to stick to what the law already allows, but now they have a federal judge ordering them to stick to what the law allows. After all, it’s one thing to have to follow the law because it’s the law. It’s another more serious thing entirely to have to follow the law because a federal judge is watching you to make sure you follow it. Anyway, that’s what I think is going on here.
Continue reading Court Finds Plaintiffs’ Arguments Likely to Succeed on their Merits, Issues Preliminary Injunction Limiting Confiscation of Homeless People’s Property on Skid Row

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Mitchell v. LA Plaintiffs Respond to City’s Opposition to Application for Temporary Restraining Order against Further Property Confiscation, City Files Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Application to Strike and/or Seal Publicly Filed Documents,

California-central(See Gale Holland’s excellent story in the Times for background).

Here’s a brief summary of what’s been going on in this turbulent case over the last week: On April 1 the plaintiffs in this already-hotly-contested suit against the City of Los Angeles for its policies regarding the confiscation of the property of the homeless on Skid Row asked the Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) enjoining the City from further confiscations of their property. On April 6 the City filed a fragmentation grenade of a response accusing both plaintiffs and their attorneys of lying and asking that they be sanctioned by the court. The City’s pleadings had accusations that were sufficiently inflammatory that they prompted the plaintiffs the next day to lodge a request that some of the stuff the City filed be sealed due to privacy concerns.

This brings us to late Thursday afternoon, when the City filed its opposition to the plaintiffs’ application to seal along with a hypertechnical “clarification” that’s beyond my capacity to interpret. And yesterday, April 8, the plaintiffs filed a bunch of stuff in reply to the City’s opposition to the application for the restraining order. You can find it all here or see a list after the break. There’s too much going on for me to discuss it all, but the essential argument (and some pretty convincing photographic proof that the City is misrepresenting facts) can be found after the break.
Continue reading Mitchell v. LA Plaintiffs Respond to City’s Opposition to Application for Temporary Restraining Order against Further Property Confiscation, City Files Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Application to Strike and/or Seal Publicly Filed Documents,

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