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Lehr v. City of Sacramento

May 19, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Plaintiffs initiated this action on August 2, 2007, and filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on August 31, 2007. Defendants City of Sacramento, Police Chief Albert Najera, and Officers Mike Cooper and Mark Zoulas (collectively "City Defendants"), have now moved for summary judgment, or in the alternative, summary adjudication as to Plaintiffs' first and second causes of action by which Plaintiffs claim 1) that City Defendants' enforcement of Sacramento's "anti-camping" ordinance against Plaintiffs is cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and 2) that City employees have operated to unconstitutionally deprive Plaintiffs of their property in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Court heard oral arguments on April 30, 2009, and now grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motion.


1. The Plaintiffs*fn1

Eleven individual Plaintiffs and three entities filed this action.

A. Anthony Lehr

Plaintiff Anthony Lehr has been homeless since 2001, when he exhausted the money he had received from Workers' Compensation for injuries sustained on the job as a carpenter. He is forty-five years old and sleeps outside on those nights he is not eligible for emergency shelter housing. Plaintiff Lehr is currently employed by Plaintiff Loaves & Fishes, but his earnings do not allow him to afford permanent housing.

B. Connie Hopson

Plaintiff Connie Hopson has been intermittently homeless since 1992. She is fifty-four years old. She is unable to work because of health problems and receives $940 per month from social security insurance, which is not enough to rent permanent housing and to have money for food, utilities, and other expenses.

She is currently homeless and disabled due to a degenerative spinal disease.

On June 29, 2006, at 5:30 a.m., while Plaintiff Hopson was sleeping on the sidewalk in the City of Sacramento, she was criminally cited by unnamed city police officers for illegal camping. Those officers also confiscated and destroyed, without notice or opportunity to reclaim, her clothes, sleeping bag, personal papers, bible, pictures, medication, and remaining possessions, leaving only two blankets. Her property was allegedly thrown into a trailer with that of other homeless individuals.

C. Floyd Hopwood

Plaintiff Floyd Hopwood has been intermittently homeless since 2002. He is fifty-six years old. He has a disabling injury to his knee, and needs surgery, but he has not been able to arrange for the procedure because he needs housing during the period of recuperation. He is only sporadically able to find available space in homeless shelters. For three months out of the year, his only income is $160 per month from General Assistance, though he does collect $155 per month in food stamps as well.

On March 20, 2007, at approximately 6:30 a.m., Plaintiff Hopwood was cited by Defendant Cooper for unlawfully camping within the city. Those charges were eventually dismissed.

D. Michael Tinius

Plaintiff Michael Tinius, now deceased, had been homeless since 1989. He was forty-seven years old. He had a dog and refused to apply to stay in shelters because of various restrictions, including those related to religion and pets. His dog was necessary for security and companionship. He was not employed and had no income.

E. Jacki Fitzgerald

Plaintiff Jacki Fitzgerald and her husband are currently homeless. She is forty-six years old and has been homeless and impoverished since the age of twenty-three. She was assaulted in a shelter as a young woman in Seattle and is now afraid to stay at such locations. She has a watchdog, and pets are not allowed in emergency shelters in Sacramento.

In approximately January of 2007, Sacramento police officers cited Plaintiff Fitzgerald and her husband for illegally camping within the City. She was required to do community service as a result of the citation.

F. Jeremy McEntyre

Plaintiff Jeremy McEntyre is currently homeless. He is thirty-seven years old. He first became homeless in 1991, when drug use led to losing his job and apartment. He is a construction worker, but without a car it is difficult for him to obtain work.

He has lived in various shelters, including the Salvation Army, the Volunteers of America Shelter, and the Clean and Sober New Start Shelter, but "timed out" of them in early 2007.

On March 17, 2007, before 7:00 a.m., Plaintiff McEntyre was awakened and cited by Officers Cooper and Zoulas for illegal camping. He was taken into custody on pending warrants.

G. Tammy Jones

Plaintiff Tammy Jones became intermittently homeless in July of 2006, and is currently renting an apartment. She is thirty-six years old. She and her husband have earned money by waving street signs for various businesses. Currently, she has a job at the Salvation Army shelter for $7.50 per hour. Her paycheck goes to pay rent and she depends on Loaves & Fishes for food. She stayed in shelters from October of 2005 through February of 2006, but had to leave when she exhausted the applicable time limits.

On February 25, 2007, Plaintiff Jones was cited for illegal camping. At 5:30 a.m. that morning, Defendants Cooper and Zoulas awakened Plaintiff Jones and advised her to move. Later, the Defendant Officers returned and advised Plaintiff Jones that if she did not leave she would be arrested and her belongings taken.

H. Michael Moore

Plaintiff Michael Moore is currently living in a residential drug and alcohol program. He is fifty-five years old. He first became homeless in 1989 and has been homeless about one third of the time since. He has stayed in various shelters in Sacramento, both at the Salvation Army and the overflow shelter at Cal Expo. He was expelled from Clean & Sober when he discontinued taking his medications and stayed out all night. Thereafter, he camped occasionally in the American River Parkway and the rail yard.

In approximately June or July of 2006, Plaintiff Moore was cited for illegal camping by Defendants Cooper and Zoulas.

I. Lindsey Alesso

Plaintiff Lindsey Alesso, who is thirty-six years old, is currently living at Bridges Transitional Housing for Women, where she is recovering from drug addiction. She has been homeless ninety percent of the time since 2000, when her husband died and she had to leave the home owned by his family. She has previously stayed in the Salvation Army shelter.

J. Valerie Dufour

Plaintiff Valerie Dufour was homeless about seventy-five percent of the time between September 2004 and April 2007. She is fifty-two years old. She has spina bifida which causes numbness in her lower extremities, hearing loss, and hypothyroidism.

She has a monthly income of $206 from General Assistance for three months per year, and receives $150 per month in food stamps. In the winter of 2006-2007, she stayed one night at the Salvation Army homeless center, and one night at the winter shelter operated by Sacramento County at Cal Expo. She does not feel safe in the shelters because she had property stolen there while she slept.

In the summer of 2006, Plaintiff Dufour was cited by unnamed Sacramento police officers for trespassing while sleeping in a business parking lot where she had permission to stay. The ticket was later dismissed.

K. Ronald Hicks

Plaintiff Ronald Hicks has been homeless since March 2007. He is fifty-six years old. He is disabled and has been intermittently employed, but does not have enough income to rent permanent housing. Plaintiff Hicks depends upon emergency shelters in Sacramento for housing, but cannot avoid sleeping outside because of the time limitations on consecutive nights. He has stayed at the Salvation Army Shelter, the winter shelter at Cal Expo, which operates until the end of March, and the Union Gospel Mission. He has been forced to sleep outside along the American River when unable to qualify for emergency housing.

L. Loaves & Fishes

Plaintiff Loaves & Fishes is a non-profit charity located in Sacramento, California, whose stated mission is to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. Open on a daily basis, Loaves & Fishes provides food for as many as one-thousand people each day. Loaves & Fishes also provides homeless individuals with clothing, blankets, and other personal necessities.

M. Francis House

Plaintiff Francis House is a non-profit organization in Sacramento, California, supported by seventeen churches and the community at large. It provides resources and counseling services to the poor. These services vary from making referrals to a food closet and providing motel vouchers to more complex advocacy assistance.

N. Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee ("SHOC")

Plaintiff SHOC is an unincorporated association of homeless and formerly homeless people and their supporters, whose mission is to advocate for and defend the rights of homeless people.

2. The Moving Defendants

The Moving Defendants are the City of Sacramento, former Chief of Police Albert Najera, and individual ...

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