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LAVAN v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES

LAVAN v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES

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Published by Katherine McNenny

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Published by: Katherine McNenny on Feb 03, 2013
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04/06/2014

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FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALSFOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
 
T
ONY
L
AVAN
; C
ATERIUS
S
MITH
;W
ILLIE
V
ASSIE
; E
RNEST
S
EYMORE
;L
AMOEN
H
ALL
; S
HAMAL
No. 11-56253B
ALLANTINE
; B
YRON
R
EESE
;D.C. No.R
EGINALD
W
ILSON
,2:11-cv-02874-
Plaintiffs-Appellees,
PSG-AJWv.OPINIONC
ITY OF
L
OS
A
NGELES
,
 Defendant-Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Courtfor the Central District of CaliforniaPhilip S. Gutierrez, District Judge, PresidingArgued and SubmittedFebruary 8, 2012—Pasadena, CaliforniaFiled September 5, 2012Before: Stephen Reinhardt, Kim McLane Wardlaw, andConsuelo M. Callahan, Circuit Judges.Opinion by Judge Wardlaw;Dissent by Judge Callahan
10573
 
COUNSEL
Carmen A. Trutanich, City Attorney, and Amy Jo Field, Dep-uty City Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for the defendant-appellant.Carol A. Sobel, Law Office of Carol A. Sobel, Santa Monica,California, for the plaintiffs-appellees.
OPINION
WARDLAW, Circuit Judge:Appellees, nine homeless individuals living in the “SkidRow” district of Los Angeles, charge that the City of LosAngeles (the “City”) violated their Fourth and FourteenthAmendment rights by seizing and immediately destroyingtheir unabandoned personal possessions, temporarily left onpublic sidewalks while Appellees attended to necessary taskssuch as eating, showering, and using restrooms. Finding astrong likelihood of success on the merits of these claims, thedistrict court enjoined the City from confiscating and summa-rily destroying unabandoned property in Skid Row. The nar-row injunction bars the City from:1. Seizing property in Skid Row absent an objec-tively reasonable belief that it is abandoned, presents
10576L
AVAN
v. C
ITY OF
L
OS
A
NGELES
 
an immediate threat to public health or safety, or isevidence of a crime, or contraband; and2. Absent an immediate threat to public health orsafety, destruction of said seized property withoutmaintaining it in a secure location for a period of lessthan 90 days.
 Lavan v. City of Los Angeles
, 797 F. Supp. 2d 1005, 1020(C.D. Cal. 2011).The district court expanded upon the great leeway the Cityretains to protect public health and safety, noting: “The City[is] able to lawfully seize and detain property, as well asremove hazardous debris and other trash; issuance of theinjunction . . . merely prevent[s the City] from
unlawfully
seizing and destroying personal property that is not aban-doned without providing any meaningful notice and opportu-nity to be heard.”
 Id.
at 1019.In this appeal, the City does not challenge the scope of theinjunction, nor does it ask us to modify its terms; instead, theCity argues only that the district court applied the wrong legalstandard in evaluating Appellees’ claims.
1
We conclude thatthe Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments protect homeless per-sons from government seizure and summary destruction of 
1
Public critics of the district court’s ruling have mischaracterized boththe breadth of the district court’s order and the substance of the City’sappeal.
See, e.g.
, Carol Schatz, “Enabling homelessness on L.A.’s skidrow,”
 L.A. Times
, April 9, 2012; Estela Lopez, “Skid row: Hoarding trashon sidewalks isn’t a right,”
 L.A. Times
, Feb. 28, 2012,
available at 
http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2012/02/skid-row-trash-sidewalks-blowback.html. The injunction does not require the City to allow hazard-ous debris to remain on Skid Row, nor does the City quibble with the con-tours of the order. Rather, the City seeks a broad ruling that it may seizeand immediately destroy any personal possessions, including medications,legal documents, family photographs, and bicycles, that are left momentar-ily unattended in violation of a municipal ordinance.
10577L
AVAN
v. C
ITY OF
L
OS
A
NGELES

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