SLO loses another battle in its fight against the homeless

January 17, 2013

Homelss22-300x225By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall awarded the two lawyers who sued the city for unconstitutional treatment of the homeless $133,880 for costs and legal fees on Thursday.

Laws permit attorneys who undertake cases on behalf of the poor and downtrodden to request attorney’s fees if they win the case. If they lose, they would get nothing.

“Basically the court decided that the SLO Homeless Alliance vindicated important public rights justifying an order that the city pay attorney’s fees in the amount $133,880.34,” Jenkins said. “We are glad the city council is starting to refocus on solutions to help those who have no roof over their head.”

In April, attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins filed a lawsuit accusing the city of San Luis Obispo and its chief of police of discrimination, harassment and the criminalization of homeless people. Following a decision by a superior court judge that the city’s treatment of the homeless was unconstitutional, the San Luis Obispo City Council agreed to dismiss all tickets given last year to homeless residents for sleeping in their vehicles.

City officials battled against paying the attorney’s claim because the city elected to settle to avoid higher legal fees. Crandall said the agreement to settle does not support denying attorney’s fees which “could have easily exceeded $1 million.”

If the city appeals Crandall’s ruling and the appellate court upholds the trial court, then the city would have to pay Jenkins and Rizzo’s fees for the appellate work.

The city also questioned the amount Rizzo and Jenkins requested, though the court found it to be in line with the more than $130,000 the city paid an Oakland law firm to defend their case, the court did lower the hourly amount from $350 to $300.

Both Rizzo and Jenkins donated their services while defending their clients in the criminal matters related to sleeping in vehicles, which at their regular $350 an hour rate would come to approximately $60,000, and they are not requesting reimbursement.

San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh said on Sept. 27 on the Dave Congalton show that the city would fight against paying fees related to the homeless lawsuits. He also claimed that Jenkins and Rizzo’s filed the lawsuit without first attempting to discuss the ordinance with the city.

However, Jenkins and Rizzo did attempt to work with the city before filing their suit.

On March 19, Jenkins asked the council to suspend its sleeping vehicle ordinance, dismiss pending citations, expunge convictions and return fines because of legal issues with the wording of the ordinance.

The next day, during a March 20 council meeting, City Attorney Christine Dietrick said that the city expected to beat any challenges noting that this type of ordinance was facially (on face not application) upheld in another city. Council members agreed with her and voiced their approval of the nightly raids.

When asked by Dave Congalton if he supports Dietrick and agrees with her legal advice on the homeless ordinances, Ashbaugh said, “Absolutely, she is amazing.”

 


30 Comments

  1. Rambunctious says:

    Here come the land sharks in Patten leather shoes…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  2. ReelView says:

    Plain and simple…There are way too many able-bodied homeless individuals who do nothing but lay around all day, drink and smoke weed all day. They should be put to work by cleaning up the city streets and creeks, the very places that they trashed. Law enforcement knows who those individuals are. The police see these people every day and every night, drink (alcohol) and smoke their pot right out in broad daylight, even near children. If the cops are “sworn” to uphold the law, then it might be in the best interest of SLO’s citizens, to cite those homeless when seen committing a violation, instead of harrassing them, or, instead of harrassing someone who is trying to work!
    Yes, there are way too many homeless here! Why? We all know why and it’s not due to the economy. CAPSLO needs to make some serious BIG changes…like lighting the fire under those able-bodied homeless and require that they seek employment. Have a look around town and you will see “Hiring Now” or “Help Wanted” signs in various places around town.

    Our great government is another to blame, by letting those people “claim” to be bi-polar. If being bi-polar means you can’t understand simple directions (their words not mine), they should not be driving, How were they able to pass their driving test? If they need to smoke their medical marijuana, they should be required to surrender their drivers license, because after all, it’s “medical” marijuana, and they should be home in bed, not driving around town under the influence!

    Ok, I realize that there are some people who just cannot afford to pay rent, it’s just way too expensive here. Not all are on SSI, many are retired, and there are a few homeless, very few, who bother no one, make no sound, they don’t socialize with the others, because they prefer to keep a low profile. I also realize that the homeless situation is a burden on the city, so there should be a place where they can park, and someone to oversee who commits a violation. Those who are caught commtting any kind of violation should be sent out of town!

    In my opinion, someone does need to speak out for the homeless, because some of them are people too. If illegal aliens are granted constitutional rights, then so should the homeless, and as much as I hate to say it, even the trashy homeless. Laws are laws.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  3. rogerfreberg says:

    Its all really about attorneys fees isn’t it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

    • obispan says:

      Not just attorney’s fees, but the principle that you have no right to live in a pleasant, quality community unless the irresponsible are allowed to do as they please and live as well as you do. Social vandalism.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  4. smartmouth says:

    Go Sarro and Stu! (Good go – not bad go!)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  5. smartmouth says:

    Why don’t you just let people sleep through the night? Imagine what their tomorrow is going to consist of and have a little compassion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

    • obispan says:

      When are you going to let go of this dust bowl immigrant analogy? These are social issues, not economic issues. I note CCN’s silence on the Mission Plaza assault/robbery. Unfair characterization of the homeless?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  6. msminiver says:

    I have finally realized why Councilman Ashbaugh can continue to professes that Dietrick is doing such a great job. You see Ashbaugh has never worked in the private sector and thus his expectations are extremely low and he figures that a truly incompetent City Attorney would have made errors that would result in additional cost to the City on this issue over a $1,000,000.00 and Christine Dietrick’s legal decisions only cost the residents a $500,000.00, thus it was a successful decision in his mind. Besides it is only the community’s money, not his and certainly not hers. However, in the private sector decisions like this would result in accountability, job termination and likely a suit based upon malpractice, but oh that is right that clause is well covered in Dietrick’s employment contract with the City.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1

  7. slo Fact Finder says:

    In the real world individuals (including city residents), businesses people and visitors to San Luis Obispo, including the less advantaged ARE responsible for their actions to local law enforcement officials and the independent legal system. Likewise, the city council and local law enforcement representatives ARE responsible to the independent legal system and judicuary.

    The City of San Luis Obispo needs to grow up and “face the music” and be accountable for its own actions when it makes mistakes. Clearly the penalties for the city’s mistakes will be paid for by the taxpayers and clearly those same taxpayers can voice their concerns at the ballot box in future elections when they are well informed about the actions of thie city council members and the city staff.

    The basic question is: Is the local voting public well enough informed to to make new choices and does the local voting public have the backbone to make new choices when the local political machine seems to penalize those that facilitate change for the better? Just think about it long and hard when the present city council and senior city staff want a vote of cofidence to renew Measure ‘Y’ as a General Purpose Tax in November of 2014. What they are really saying is “Trust us with your hard earned tax dollars” because we know whats best for the citizens of City of San Luis Obispo. So just trust us for the next 8 years or more……You make the call, but the answer is becomming more obvious every day!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 2

    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      “Clearly the penalties for the city’s mistakes will be paid for by the taxpayers”

      What IS a city but an association of individuals banded together for safety and commerce? There is no one else who can pay.

      That city government of yours sure does you a lot of “good,” doesn’t it?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

Comments are closed.