Ninth Circuit Upholds Ban on Seizure of Large Items in Public Areas in L.A.

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PASADENA (CNS) - A federal appeals panel today affirmed a ruling prohibiting Los Angeles police and sanitation workers from seizing and tossing oversized items stashed in public places, frequently by the homeless.

The split decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena upholds last year's lower court decision that bans the city from enforcing an ordinance stopping people from keeping “bulky'' items – which cannot fit into a 60-gallon container -- on public walkways.

A spokesman for the City Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request from City News Service for comment.

The city has maintained that the public has a right to unblocked sidewalks.

The three-judge panel noted that the homeless individuals and advocacy groups that brought the case were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the city law was unconstitutional since it violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable seizures and the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process.

“The escalating homelessness crisis in the city of Los Angeles has forced an unprecedented number of residents to live, sleep and store their belongings exclusively in public places,'' according to the appellate opinion.

Items encountered on city sidewalks include boats, tubs, sofas, automobile parts, bed frames, mattresses and household appliances.

As written, the city law says police and sanitation workers “may remove'' and “may discard'' oversized items. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Mark J. Bennett wrote that the “discard'' provision should be severed, and that the constitutionality of the “remove'' provision should then be separately analyzed.

The July 2019 lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, includes accounts of sanitation workers and police confiscating -- without a warrant -- and destroying such items as a dog cage, and a foam cushion and wooden pallets used as a makeshift bed.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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