Rotella on Fox News Night - Unconstitutional Homeless Bags?
Mike: Seven homeless people suing to stop the city from destroying property seized in so-called encampment suites. Tonight’s legal eagles now join us to argue this case.
Washington Times legal affairs reporter Alex Sawyer, and founder, CEO and senior partner from GenCo legal, Bryan Rotella. Great to have you both.
Bryan: Thanks Mike.
Alex: Great to be here.
Mike: Exhibit A, LA code 56.11, “The city of Los Angeles is responsible for the maintenance of sidewalks and other public areas owned, managed or maintained by the city. These public areas must remain safe, clean, sanitary, and accessible for public use by all individuals”. Is there something wrong with that law, Bryan?
Bryan: Well, Mike, this one’s got me going tonight. I’m going to tell you why. In trying cases, I always decide a couple of things. One, there are bad lawsuits and I don’t like lawsuits because I’m a defense lawyer. But there’s also bad laws. This is a bad law. 56.11 is a Los Angeles city law that candidly could only be made up in Los Angeles. I can say that, I went to law school there. I practice there. And this is why. The focus of this law is so that home in public space, something weighing 60 pounds with a lid on it in a container. Mike, I don’t know what LA thinks. This is property brothers, this is fixer upper. But if I’m homeless, the last thing I’m worried about is how big the bag is that I’m carrying. I have a hard enough time deciding what the shampoo bottle is I can bring out an airplane. This is a dumb law regardless of its constitutionality.
Mike: All right, Exhibit B, take a listen.
Speaker 4: I have to buy my own supplies and I always have to restart over because they come in, they sweep and they take everything from me, and said I can’t get out of the hole I’m in because they keep putting me back in square one.
Mike: So Alex, what can they do with their material belongings?
Alex: Yeah, it’s a tough situation, but the law actually allows for someone to be present with their items to hold it. For example, I believe that that woman was speaking about cleaning supplies. So if you’re present, it’s not taken. If it’s abandoned on public property, that’s when it becomes the issue. And I think there’s a strong argument that if this was taken to the Supreme Court, it would be a very big question whether or not someone has a property interest in property they’ve abandoned on public sidewalks. And not only that, but if something is taken, the individual is left a notice and they can go downtown to a storage unit where the city is going to hold on to the item for 90 days so they can go retrieve it.
Mike: Exhibit C, an LA city councilman told our affiliated Fox 11 KTTV quote, “If the city attorney does not fight this case aggressively, Los Angeles will become a city of filth and disease in a warm weather environment”. What about that concern, Bryan?
Bryan: Look, has he spent a lot of time in Los Angeles? There’s problems there are already Mike, and here’s the issue, and Alex is a good lawyer, I’d love to agree with her on this. But my biggest problem, again, with this law is in the United States, life, Liberty and property should not be seized without due process. Here, folks carrying 60 pound bags that are homeless. I think there are bigger issues in California. They should be focused on.
Mike: All right. The ninth circuit court of appeals tends to be quite liberal. What are your expectations, Alex?
Alex: Yeah, I know previously they had a similar lawsuit. The ordinance was slightly different, but they did rule in favor for the homeless. So if it were to go there again, I kind of think they could fare well. But if it went to the Supreme Court, sometimes we see that nights there get overturned.
Mike: All right. Alex Sawyer, Bryan Rotella, great to have your analysis. Thanks so much. Have a beautiful weekend.
Alex: Thank You
Bryan: You too. Mike.