S.F. Mayor, Judges Disagree on Quality-of-Life Law Enforcement

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The leaders of two of the most powerful San Francisco governmental institutions are at odds over how to deal with one of the city’s most enduring problems, demonstrating how little agreement there is when it comes to tackling homelessness, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Mayor Ed Lee has condemned San Francisco Superior Court’s recall of 64,713 outstanding arrest warrants for quality-of-life offenses dating back more than five years. Lee is “emotionally angry” about the decision and refuses to accept it. Presiding Judge John Stewart says it is a waste of resources to keep track of warrants that are rarely enforced and fines that are almost never paid. “No one is taking these warrants seriously and for good reason,” Stewart said, adding that Lee can’t do anything to reverse the court’s action.

The disagreement heightens a rocky relationship between Lee and San Francisco judges. It demonstrates the lack of coordination among city officials, the courts and law enforcement, each of which plays a critical role in dealing with the homelessness crisis. In October, Judge Christopher Hite issued a court order suspending the fines and recalling the outstanding arrest warrants for quality-of-life citations, which can be given for everything from sitting on public sidewalks to urinating in public to building illegal encampments. Lee said this week that he “cannot have judges” who overlook citations simply because they may hurt poor people. He said that it’s clear that someone who, say, gets 10 citations for urinating on the same street has some kind of illness and that enforcing citations can be used to get that person into the city’s Community Justice Center. The center is overseen by Superior Court and allows low-level crimes to be wiped from someone’s record if he or she accepts services, such as entering into a drug treatment program.

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