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.”

 


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womanwhohasbeenthere

Dietrick needs to go.


SLOBIRD

I think that paradise is having a meltdown. We have those rigthous Democrats who want to serve their base, get the votes, speak loud and cloear about the needs of others and pay the debts to their fellow bedfellows. Then they see the reality of the situation, panic for a solution, listen to some half educated wit and high powered attorney’s up north saying, oh this is an easy fix and BOOM, we have another misguided mess.


I read in Dec that the organizations working with the homeless went out and within 4-6 hours found 3,800 in this County that are homeless. Where! I know there are homeless, lots of them, but please, this does not seem real to me. Did they keep records where they people are? 3,800 homeless in 4-6 hours, really! Are we buying this? What are we talking about? Homeless to me are people living in the shelters, RV’s without a fixed location, creeks, under the bridges or in the parks. 3,800 in 4-6 hours, really!


jimmy_me

This is an issue of no accountability in local elected officials and local law enforcement. These are government jobs. Unlike the private sector, if you make a huge and costly mistake, you are not punished. If you made a similar mistake in the private sector, you’d be asked to leave before the end of the day. CCN news continually has numerous stories about corrupt, apathetic, and downright stupid elected officials and LEOs. No one gets punished, aside from taxpayers.


msminiver

Well Mr. A. you are either; ignorant, stupid or completely incompetent based upon the articles in this on-line newspaper this past couple of years? You keep professing how right you are and how amazing the city attorney is and the courts keep ruling against the City and both of you. However, that is okay because the residents keep flipping the tab – a cool quarter of a million dollars plus on this screw up. Now this does not include all the staff time to defend the George Orwellian tactics. Happiest place on earth, friendliest City in the U.S. Friendliest to whom? SLO town is quickly becoming a little fascist dictatorship, because if Katie, Christine, Marx and/or Dietrick say it is so, it must be so. So let them eat cake. Well, I guess it is better than the healthy and repeated doses of crow all of you keep eating?


Jorge Estrada

In the un-incorporated areas where, for the most part land is private, tresspass laws protect the property owners from having to host vagrants.


As for the vagrancy issues in town, this un-intended consequence of “SMART GROWTH”, will certainly be taxing for the City of San Luis Obispo, a Coporation, in the State of California.


willieslo

How do opposing tax payers STOP AND NOT PAY TAXES ANYMORE to these civil servant politicians, judges and BS attorneys?!


The Gimlet Eye

Good question. The way police are dealing with people all over the country, it’s a wonder that cities don’t get bankrupted very quickly. Check what happened over in Chicago:


Chicago pays $22.5 MILLION to woman who was gang raped and plummeted from seventh story window after police failed to take proper care of her


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2262958/Christina-Eilman-Chicago-pays-22-5-MILLION-woman-gang-raped-plummeted-seventh-story-window-police-failed-proper-care-her.html#ixzz2IJRVCzFN


The police always have our best interests at heart, don’t they?


danika

A thought: what do you think would happen if the people of this country suddenly took the majority of our money out of our bank accounts, savings accounts, any depository in effort to reset the control back to the people?


While we will always have to pay those taxes, we could certainly send a bold message in keeping our money out of their control AND not have to pay those “convenience fees” at the same time!


Slowerfaster

We don’t always agree, but here we do.


Problem is that the American people are too stupid to do so. They prefer everything junk:

junk mail, junk money, junk food, junk politicians….just so long as it’s fast and convenient. .

Easiest way to make money is to bet against the American public.

Works every time.


racheltamagni

We are thinking alike again! Just took our money out of savings (what little there was of it :-)). We agree we should not support these criminals. The interest they begrudgingly pay isn’t worth worrying about anyway. We are tired of financially supporting their financial escapades to the detriment of the American people. Hope more join in.


danika

{{{{{{ Rachel }}}}}}} GMTA! I smiled broadly when I did it and felt I had just accomplished something. I made the first step in taking control of where MY money goes.


I encourage ALL who can do so, make a bold statement. Take out any residual money you can from your banks, financial institutions, etc. and be a part of something bigger. The dollar amount isn’t important, it’s the meaning behind it. Do whatever you can.


Let’s get this going. Let’s give birth to this national movement right here at CCN.


Rally your friends, colleagues, neighbors, heck….let’s do a national YouTube video!


“The Money Move” ….


Email: MoneyMove@usa.com with suggestions, assistance, how you can help…


hotdog

Wow, on bum advice from our incompetent slo attorney this mess will cost us about $300,000. If the case was a slam dunk why didn’t the slo hack defend it? Sounds like we could use some new people running things.


And what about that slo cop attack on McMillan road just before the election? We never heard anything about that. An opinion piece was submitted to CCN asking for council response, where is the response?


Kevin Rice

Actually, it’s more than $500,000. City legal staff invested considerable time as well as all the police time citing/arresting 99 persons and impounding vehicles, etc.


I spoke at the March 20 council meeting last year imploring the Council to back off and resolve the issues prior to this lawsuit. The Council insisted on pressing forward, Marx and Ashbaugh in particular.


We have serious homeless issues which are increasing, yet there does exist thoughtful solutions that can be had at a low cost without violating Constitutional rights. The $9 million homeless center can fit into the solutions, but it is very costly and won’t exist for years. Can we ask the Council to relax their grip and allow our service organizations and faith community to participate? There are willing groups wanting to help now, but they are obstructed from helping by red tape and ordinances.


The current homeless plan is a very “institutional” one which practically mandates all homeless go to one place only—the homeless center. The alternative, which many take, is to live in our creeks and elsewhere. Let’s allow those who want to help provide additional housing and accommodations. City Hall should not be fighting solutions or spending $1/2 million on litigation, they should be assisting with solutions.


Bert

Couldn’t agree more, Kevin.


Slowerfaster

WOW ! Hell froze over, i agree with Kevin.


Maybe this cold weather we’ve been having has side benefits .


TacomaRose

I have no problem with the attorneys being paid for doing their job in righting a wrong. God knows there are so many wrongs being perpetrated by bureacrats and public officials.


The pain is that these payments are ultimately made by the taxpayers yet the idiot public officials who set the ball in motion always skate.


Oh how I wish they would be held accountable as well. In this case if they had to share the award of $133,880 out of their own bank accounts then maybe, just maybe they would be a little more prudent in their deliberations.


Mayor Marx should understand this … she’s an attorney right? … albeit a pisspoor one.


Mr. Holly

That’s only 446 hours of work or 55 days of full time work. This is just another aspect of the legal system which permits robbery amongst themselves. I would think that it would be a conflict of interest for one lawyer, the judge, to rule on the actions of another lawyer. It’s really a pretty neat little club that they all belong to that, once again, we taxpayers end up paying for.

I would hope that CCN would get their billing document and post it for all of us to see.


Kevin Rice

I recommend you read the entire fifteen page ruling which relies on nearly three dozen precedent cases. This may help your understanding of the law (Code of Civil Procedure, section 1021.5) and how it’s application and the amount of the award was determined.


See SLO Homeless Alliance v. City of SLO

http://slocourts.net/case_inquiry/civil/tentative_rulings/D9


kettle

Mr. Holly says: “I would think that it would be a conflict of interest for one lawyer, the judge, to rule on the actions of another lawyer.”


What? So people who do not understand the law should decide or perhaps some d20 dice to pick a random amount of $?