Peggy Lee Kennedy and the Venice Justice Committee advocate for the rights of homeless people on the Venice Boardwalk. The LAPD has regularly threatened Kennedy with arrest for illegal vending in violation of the ordinance regulating such activities on the Boardwalk, that is to say, LAMC §42.15. Thus in February 2016 Carol Sobel filed suit in federal court on behalf of the activists. The suit survived a motion to dismiss after an August 2016 hearing in which not only did the City’s oral arguments seem pathetically pro forma but the judge, Dean Pregerson, seemed openly skeptical of the City’s position.
Last month Judge Dean Pregerson heard oral arguments on the City’s motion to dismiss this suit, filed by the Venice Justice Committee against the City of Los Angeles in opposition to its ham-fisted attempts to regulate speech on the Venice Boardwalk. Today he filed his order denying the motion to dismiss in part and granting it in part as well. Pregerson’s a lively writer, and the order makes interesting reading. There are three main issues addressed in the order.
First up, the City regulates vending on the Boardwalk in various ways, but contains an exception for soliciting donations and other activities protected by the First Amendment. Plaintiff Peggy Lee Kennedy was evidently told on a couple of occasions by LAPD officers that asking for donations was vending and that she had to stop or face arrest. Everyone agrees that these cops were in the wrong, but the question before the Court seems to have been whether the law “as applied” was unconstitutional. Pregerson found that it was not, and accordingly dismissed the parts of the complaint that had to do with that claim.
Second,1 the Plaintiffs made claims under the Bane Act, which allows people to sue if their constitutional rights were violated maliciously. Pregerson found that even assuming that the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights were violated, they weren’t violated maliciously. I’m skipping some details, but that’s essentially why he also dismissed this cause of action.