Judge delays reinstating homeless ticketing ban
July 26, 2012
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.”