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Court rules county cannot claim immunity from lawsuit


A judge this week rejected Los Angeles County’s bid to be dismissed from a lawsuit brought by a broad coalition of downtown businesses and residents seeking to force the city and county to step up their response to the rising number of homeless encampments on local streets and near freeways.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter determined that the county’s claims of immunity are “inapplicable” against some of the plaintiffs’ allegations in the suit.

As for the county’s argument that it is not responsible for Skid Row since it is located within Los Angeles city limits, Carter found that the L.A. Alliance has demonstrated that actions by the county “cause the number of persons experiencing homelessness to increase or cause the conditions of homelessness to worsen.”

The county alleged in its motion for dismissal, filed last month in Los Angeles federal court, that it spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on homelessness and has quickened its pace in recent years. While stating that it shares the goals of the lawsuit lodged last year, the county maintains that the complaint is not a proper forum to achieve a remedy to the problem.

The judge, however, responded that “if the court finds an ongoing constitutional violation, it is obligated to impose a remedy.”

In the lawsuit, L.A. Alliance contends that the county has wasted money in fighting homelessness. Carter wrote on Tuesday that the plaintiffs have shown that “at least some degree of government spending has been ‘unnecessary or useless’ in tackling the homelessness problem.”

Carter has set hearings later this month to discuss issues including binding financial agreements to pay for homeless housing, and the specter of “structural racism.”

Carter’s mandatory order set a timetable for offers of shelter to be made to about 2,000 homeless people living on the streets of Skid Row by October.