The city and county of Los Angeles plan to file an upcoming appeal against a sweeping order from federal Judge David O. Carter, who demands that “urgent action” be taken to house people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row. Legal analysts say they “may have a strong case” to overturn his order, citing precedent and potential overreach, the Los Angeles Times details.
Because of this, the city and county have asked for the order to be stayed until their appeal is heard by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, considering part of the order demands that the city and county must find shelter for all women and children on Skid Row within 90 days.
At the heart of this issue is the “unprecedented growth” of the number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles, to which Judge Carter argues that a long history of “state-sponsored racism” has driven Black people into homelessness. Because of Carter’s stance, it legally places the responsibility onto the city and county to fund and fix the “state-created danger,” the legal analysts write for the Los Angeles Times.
In the original “fiery” 110-page order recently filed, Judge David O. Carter also went after officials’ inability to gain control over the “unprecedented growth of homelessness that has seen encampments spread into nearly every neighborhood in the region,” the Associated Press details.
“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets,” Carter wrote in granting a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs last week, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Carter concludes that “the injunction was necessary,” — including the requirement that the city put $1 billion in escrow to pay for Skid Row’s clearance, because the city and county has failed “numerous” times to fix the problem, NBC News details.
Legal scholars and analysts well versed in Carter’s order spoke with the Los Angeles Times, explaining that there’s precedent for judges to resolve what are considered “gross constitutional violations” that lead to “state-created dangers.”
They continue to note that an appellate court will likely ask whether the government committed such violations by failing to help people experiencing homelessness get off the streets — and whether or not Carter’s order oversteps boundaries and “expectations of what a judge should be doing.”
UC Berkeley law school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who knows Judge Carter and read his order, said he believes Carter did a “good job” explaining why he believes that the government could’ve prevented the rise in homelessness.
However, Chemerinsky says that precedent is not on Carter’s side, noting that Supreme Court and other lower courts have been “skeptical and often unwilling to accept arguments” that states create dangers for citizens, “even in the most egregious circumstances,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
On the issue of Carter’s overreaching his authority in the matter, a range of lawyers across the ideological spectrum that spoke to the Los Angeles Times believe a higher court will see Carter’s order as dictating “policies that are normally decided by elected officials.”
“Deciding how to spend taxpayers’ money and deliver services to people experiencing homelessness is a legislative, not a judicial, function,” Skip Miller, whose Miller Barondess law firm is representing the county, said Wednesday, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times.
“The county remains committed to its course of urgent action outside of court addressing this complex societal issue with the city and its other partners,” Barondess concluded.
A Point of Crisis
While elected officials and legal analysts argue judicial overreach, advocates have pointed to the fact that homelessness in Los Angeles County is now reaching a “crisis” point, as detailed in a March report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The latest federal report estimates that the population of people in California experiencing homelessness pre-pandemic was 161,548 as of January 2020 — a staggering 7 percent increase from 2019. In Los Angeles County, the numbers jumped 13 percent over the same period, resulting in a population of 66,436 living without adequate and stable shelter in January 2020.
While the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority was forced to cancel their annual count last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they estimate the number has increased again, citing more tents and more encampments in places that weren’t previously occupied before the pandemic, CBSLA details.
“We need immediate places for people to go, and we need immediate innovative affordable places like tiny homes and mobile homes that can be quickly constructed,” Andy Bales, president and CEO of the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row, said in an CBSLA interview in March. “And we need to move back to recovery.”
This summary was prepared by TCR staff writer Andrea Cipriano