Judge delays reinstating homeless ticketing ban

July 26, 2012

By KAREN VELIE

A San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge said Wednesday that he would hold off making a decision on whether to grant another preliminary injunction barring police from ticketing homeless who sleep in their vehicles until after a mediation scheduled for August 2.

In April, attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins filed a lawsuit against the city of San Luis Obispo and the chief of police for implementing an aggressive ticketing campaign that they contend discriminates against homeless people.

Earlier this month, Judge Charles Crandall temporarily banned police from ticketing the homeless because the law the city was using to bar sleeping in cars referred to private property and not public streets. Crandall also noted that the city’s enforcement strategy was unconstitutional because it appeared to single out poor and homeless people for harsher treatment.

The city council then “overruled” Crandall, rewrote the ordinance and placed it in a health and safety code section in an attempt to continue to prohibit homeless from sleeping in their cars. Enforcement of the new ordinance is slated to begin on Aug. 9.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Rizzo asked the court to grant a temporary injunction banning enforcement  of the new ordinance.

“Our clients need the peace of mind that nothing will hamper the facilitation of a meaningful mediation,” Rizzo said. “If you sign the injunction, you can always vacate.”

City attorney Christine Dietrick argued that Crandall should consider the city council’s new ordinance while making his decision.

Crandall agreed to hold off on signing the injunction until after mediation while noting his dislike of temporary restraining orders.

“I hope nothing will happen during the mediation process,” Crandall said. “It is the big elephant in the room.”

Both Rizzo and Jenkins said they would feel compelled to bring their request back in front of the judge if the city starts ticketing homeless before the mediation process is completed.

Crandall asked both sides to enter negotiations with open minds and reminded them of the secrecy of the mediation process.

“I want both sides to express ideas,” Crandall said. “I do not want to hear a word. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”


4 Comments

  1. msminiver says:

    Sounds to me like Judge Crandal is giving the City plenty of rope to hang itself! Let’s see, selective enforcement practices that single out a given sector of the population of San Luis Obispo. Sounds like a federal civil liberties issue. Couple that with protected property rights issues and protected Constitutional matters related to one’s domicile sounds like a cool million dollars per plaintiff in punitive damages. The City new the plaintiffs conduct was protected, advised to stop infringing upon the plaintiffs rights, then the City reinvents a way to circumvent a Judge’s order. Sounds like the City knows they are wrong, yet they continue with this abhorrent behavior with Second Red Scare tactics. Unbelievable and how much do we pay these people to create significant liability for us taxpayers?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

  2. MaryMalone says:

    I bet big-mouth Christine Dietrick is wondering what impact her ridiculous criticism of Judge Crandall has had on this current decision.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 31 Thumb down 21

    • photocal says:

      Good thought Mary…………………… Thanks !

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

    • dante0182 says:

      MaryMalone, Dietrick did an absolute disservice to her client by publicly criticizing a judge’s decision. An officer of the court loses the full ability to criticize the court. It seems like Dietrick should be reported to the State Bar for her actions. Let the State Bar determine whether she violated Code of Conduct and should be sanctioned.

      The citizens of SLO need to start asking the City Council why their employees are not acting in the best interest of the city.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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