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Lehr v. City of Sacramento

August 21, 2009

ANTHONY LEHR, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF SACRAMENTO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, numerous homeless individuals and several nonprofit entities, initiated this action on August 2, 2007, and filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on August 31, 2007. By way of their FAC, Plaintiffs sought relief from alleged ongoing violations of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Plaintiffs specifically argued that: 1) enforcement of the City's "anti-camping" ordinance violated the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment; 2) pursuant to City policy, Defendants illegally confiscated Plaintiffs' personal property in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; and 3) Defendants established and maintained "policies, practices and conduct...intended and designed to single out homeless people" that "had the purpose and effect of depriving homeless people of their property in the City and County of Sacramento," and that were "based on Defendants' animus towards this disfavored group and lack[ed] a rational relationship to any legitimate state interest."

Defendant City of Sacramento (hereafter "Defendant" or "City") subsequently filed two Motions for Summary Judgment which were granted in part and denied in part. Accordingly, only one named Plaintiff, Connie Hopson, remains with claims against the City. Relevant to the instant Motion is her second claim, by which she alleges Defendant's policies and practices of property confiscation and destruction deprived her, and the putative class members she seeks to represent, of their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. As to that claim, Plaintiff seeks to certify a class comprised of:

All persons in the City of Sacramento...who were, or are, or will be homeless at any time after August 2, 2005, and whose personal belongings have been taken and destroyed, or will be taken and destroyed, by one or more of the defendants.

In light of the fact that only one named Plaintiff alleges any wrongdoing by the City, Defendant opposes Plaintiffs' instant putative class as lacking the requisite numerosity.

For the following reasons, the City's arguments are rejected and Plaintiffs' Motion is granted.

STANDARD

A court may certify a class if a plaintiff demonstrates that all of the prerequisites of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) have been met, and that at least one of the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b) have been met. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23; see also Valentino v. Carter-Wallace, Inc., 97 F.3d 1227, 1234 (9th Cir. 1996). Before certifying a class, the trial court must conduct a "rigorous analysis" to determine whether the party seeking certification has met the prerequisites of Rule 23. Id. at 1233. While the trial court has broad discretion to certify a class, its discretion must be exercised within the framework of Rule 23. Zinser v. Accufix Research Inst., Inc., 253 F.3d 1180, 1186 (9th Cir. 2001).

Rule 23(a) provides four prerequisites that must be satisfied for class certification: (1) the class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) questions of law or fact exist that are common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a).

Rule 23(b) requires a plaintiff to establish one of the following: (1) that there is a risk of substantial prejudice from separate actions; (2) that declaratory or injunctive relief benefitting the class as a whole would be appropriate; or (3) that common questions of law or fact predominate and the class action ...


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