Judge Denies LA County's Bid for Pause in Homelessness Lawsuit Proceedings


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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit dealing with homelessness in Los Angeles denied a request by the county to pause trial proceedings and Los Angeles County responded Wednesday by filing a motion to dismiss the case.

The judge's denial filed late Tuesday was prompted by the county's bid for a stay while it pursues an appellate review of U.S. District Judge David Carter's order last month in which he rejected the parties' proposed agreement, lifted a previous stay and reinstated trial proceedings.

In its March 2020 lawsuit, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition that includes downtown business owners and housed and unhoused residents, alleges that inaction by the city and county of Los Angeles has created a dangerous environment in the Skid Row area and beyond.

At the April hearing in Los Angeles federal court, Carter -- for the second time in five months -- rejected the county's settlement offer, denying the county and the L.A. Alliance's joint stipulation to dismiss the case, saying he needed more "oversight and enforcement powers."

Carter approved the city of Los Angeles' settlement with the L.A. Alliance last June.

The county on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss all claims asserted by the plaintiffs and requested judicial notice of records showing how the county is addressing the homelessness crisis.

Carter's recent refusal to accept a settlement deal between the plaintiffs and the county "forces us into the unprecedented position of continuing to litigate a three-year-old case that has already been settled between the parties -- twice," Mira Hashmall, an outside attorney for the county in the lawsuit, said in a statement.

"The county and plaintiffs have petitioned the court to dismiss the case, but it has refused and insists on keeping everyone tied up in unnecessary and costly proceedings."

Hashmall said county leaders share the court's "sense of urgency in addressing homelessness. We simply believe the lawsuit has run its course and rather than expend money and time on a settled matter, it is now time to fully focus our efforts on working with the city and nonprofit partners outside the court to deal with the humanitarian crisis in our streets."

The county's motion to dismiss is partly based on the argument that the L.A. Alliance lacks legal standing to bring the lawsuit because each of the plaintiffs cannot show personal injury directly traceable to the county's allegedly unlawful conduct.

Hashmall said Los Angeles County has pledged $1.1 billion in additional public funds and resources to attempt to address and prevent homelessness during the three years of litigation. The revised settlement offer that the judge rejected would have provided an extra 700 new mental health and substance use disorder beds, bringing the total number of these types of beds to 1,000.

Attorneys for both the county and the L.A. Alliance told Carter at the April 20 hearing they were satisfied with the terms of the agreement and believed, while it wouldn't be enough to fix the homelessness crisis, it should be enough to resolve the lawsuit.

But Carter balked at the number of mental health beds that would be created by the agreement and said greater accountability and court oversight were needed.

Daniel Conway, a spokesman for the L.A. Alliance, said Wednesday that the terms of a settlement are contingent on the judge's approval.

"From the beginning of this process, our goal was to have the federal court overseeing the process to make sure the city and county are doing all they can, and we've never wavered. And that's what we want to see going forward."

Hashmall said that no matter what's happening in court, "we want to make clear that the county is moving forward to provide beds and resources for people experiencing homelessness, including people with mental health and substance use disorders, and to fund a suite of wrap-around services for qualified residents who are placed in housing units that the city has pledged to build under its own settlement with plaintiffs."

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