National Lawyers Guild LA Street Vending Case to Stay with Judge Beverly O’Connell for now, Petition for Transfer to Judge Philip Gutierrez Denied

Federal Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell, in whose court the NLG's street vending case is being heard.
Federal Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, in whose court the NLG’s street vending case is being heard.
This is just a quick note to alert you that there has been some action, albeit not that much, in the street vending lawsuit against the Fashion District BID and the city of LA. Some of the new documents, I think the interesting ones, but PACER is so clunky, not to mention expensive, that it’s hard to be sure, can be found here or directly here in static storage. Basically what seems to have happened is that the case was assigned to Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell and the plaintiffs asked to have it moved to the court of Philip Gutierrez. As you’ll know if you’ve been following things, Gutierrez is the judge in the Lavan case and also the LACW and LACAN case against the city of LA and the Central City East Association, which runs the Downtown Industrial District BID. The NLG argues that these two cases are similar enough to the instant case that they ought to be heard by the same judge. This request was denied, and they’ve filed a request for reconsideration. The request for reconsideration hinges on what is, I think, the crucial aspect of this case and the one against CCEA.

Federal Judge Philip Gutierrez, in whose court this case is not, so far, being heard.
Federal Judge Philip Gutierrez, in whose court this case is not, so far, being heard.
It seems that in order to prevail in their motion to have the case moved to Gutierrez’s court they have to establish that the legal and factual issues are similar enough that having the cases heard by different judges would create a “substantial duplication of labor.” It’s the issue with whether the BIDs and the city of LA are acting in concert that they seem to be relying on to establish this. And I believe they’re right. As far as I can tell the question of how much agency BIDs have been granted by cities is an unlitigated question, not just in California but nation-wide, and all of these cases hinge on it. It’s a big deal, too, since clearly cities use BIDs in manifold ways to evade responsibility by shifting it onto BIDs. Anyway, here’s the crux of the request:

…there are two reasons why this case should be considered related to the LACW case: the due process violations in the seizure and destruction of property and the coordinated conduct of the BID and the LAPD in carrying out the due process violation. As in LACW, this case involves seizures conducted by employees of a business improvement district (BID) and the involvement of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The cases raise legal questions regarding the both the BID’s and the LAPD’s liability for the seizures, notwithstanding whether the plaintiffs are homeless individuals or street vendors. The case, accordingly, may require the Court to resolve factual and legal issues that Judge Gutierrez has already addressed in LACW. See Order Denying Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, LACW v. LA Downtown Industrial BID, No. CV 14-7344-PSG (C.D. Cal. Jan. 13, 2015), ECF No. 30 at 4-6 (holding that City may be liable for seizures conducted by a BID through theories of agency, conspiracy, and as joint tortfeasors). This case therefore not only “present[s] similar legal theories” as in Lavan but also the unique factual and legal issues in LACW, the resolution of which may entail a substantial duplication of labor if heard by different judges.

Once again, I cannot say strongly enough how important this legal theory is. If the plaintiffs in any of these suits manage to prove the theory that the city of LA is liable for illegal actions of BIDs then an awful lot of things are going to have to change in deep and unforeseeable ways. It’ll be an apocalypse, but good!


Images of Judges are in the public domain for the usual federal reasons.

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