LOS ANGELES – A November trial date was set Tuesday for a lawsuit brought against Los Angeles County by a coalition of downtown business owners and housed and unhoused residents alleging local government has not done enough to help remedy the homelessness crisis.
In its March 2020 lawsuit, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights alleged that inaction by the city and county of Los Angeles has created a dangerous environment in the Skid Row area and beyond.
The plaintiffs settled with the city last June in an agreement approved by U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is overseeing the case.
In April, Carter — for the second time in five months — rejected the county’s settlement offer, denying the county and the L.A. Alliance’s joint stipulation to dismiss the case, saying he needed more “oversight and enforcement powers.”
The county then attempted to stay proceedings and file an appeal to a higher court, but Carter denied that effort earlier this month.
At a scheduling conference Tuesday, Carter set a jury trial date of Nov. 6 in Los Angeles federal court.
Carter’s recent refusal to accept a settlement deal between the plaintiffs and the county “forces us into the unprecedented position of continuing to litigate a three-year-old case that has already been settled between the parties — twice,” Mira Hashmall, an outside attorney for the county in the lawsuit, said in a statement last week.
“The county and plaintiffs have petitioned the court to dismiss the case, but it has refused and insists on keeping everyone tied up in unnecessary and costly proceedings.”
Hashmall said county leaders share the court’s “sense of urgency in addressing homelessness. We simply believe the lawsuit has run its course and rather than expend money and time on a settled matter, it is now time to fully focus our efforts on working with the city and nonprofit partners outside the court to deal with the humanitarian crisis in our streets.”
The county has long argued that the L.A. Alliance lacks legal standing to bring the lawsuit because each of the plaintiffs cannot show personal injury directly traceable to the county’s allegedly unlawful conduct.
Hashmall said Los Angeles County has pledged $1.1 billion in additional public funds and resources to address and prevent homelessness during the three years of litigation. The revised settlement offer that the judge rejected would have provided an extra 700 new mental health and substance use disorder beds, bringing the total number of these types of beds to 1,000.
Both the county and the L.A. Alliance told Carter at the April 20 hearing that they were satisfied with the terms of the agreement and believed, while it wouldn’t be enough to fix the homelessness crisis, it should be enough to resolve the lawsuit.
But Carter balked at the number of mental health beds that would be created by the agreement and said greater accountability and court oversight were needed.
Daniel Conway, a spokesman for the L.A. Alliance, said the terms of a settlement are contingent on the judge’s approval.
“From the beginning of this process, our goal was to have the federal court overseeing the process to make sure the city and county are doing all they can, and we’ve never wavered. And that’s what we want to see going forward.”