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Los Angeles Police Protective League v. City of Los Angeles

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division

December 26, 2014

LOS ANGELES POLICE PROTECTIVE LEAGUE et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents,
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Defendants and Appellants, LA VOICE et al., Interveners and Appellants.

[DEPUBLISHED bye ORDER]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC483052 Terry A. Green, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Michael N. Feuer, City Attorney, James P. Clark, Chief Deputy City Attorney, and Gerald M. Sato, Deputy City Attorney, for Defendants and Appellants.

Richard Doyle, City Attorney (San Jose), Nora Frimann, Assistant City Attorney, and Elisa T. Tolention, Deputy City Attorney, for League of California Cities as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Appellants.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Angela Sierra, Assistant Attorney General, Nancy A. Beninati and Anthony V. Seferian, Deputy Attorneys General, as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Appellants.

ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Peter Bibring, Michael Kaufman and Lucero Chavez for Interveners and Appellants.

Silver, Hadden, Silver, Wexler & Levine, Richard A. Levine and Brian Ross for Plaintiff and Respondent Los Angeles Protective League.

Judicial Watch, Sterling E. Norris and Paul J. Orfanedes for Plaintiff and Respondent Harold P. Sturgeon.

OPINION

FLIER, J.

Harold Sturgeon, a Los Angeles County taxpayer, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League (League), an association representing sworn peace officers, seek to invalidate the Los Angeles Police Department’s policy regarding impounding vehicles, “Special Order 7.” The special order seeks to implement Vehicle Code sections 14602.6 and 14607.6 and directs officers when to use those sections and other state statutes governing impounds.[1] We conclude that Special Order 7 is within the wide discretion of the police chief, and that neither Sturgeon nor the League has standing to challenge the chief’s implementation of the state statutes. Because they lack standing to pursue this litigation, we reverse the judgment entered in favor of Sturgeon and the League.

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FACTS AND PROCEDURE

Two statutes governing unlicensed drivers are central to the parties’ arguments in this case. Section 14602.6 allows a peace officer to impound a vehicle when the officer determines that a person was driving the vehicle without ever having been issued a driver’s license. (§ 14602.6, subd. (a)(1) (section 14602.6(a)(1)).) And section 14607.6, subdivision (c)(1) provides: “If a driver is unable to produce a valid driver’s license on the demand of a peace officer enforcing the provisions of this code, ... the vehicle shall be impounded regardless of ownership, unless the peace officer is reasonably able, by other means, to verify that the driver is properly licensed.” The trial court concluded that Special Order 7 conflicted with these statutes and was therefore void.

1. Special Order 7

In Los Angeles, the Board of Police Commissioners (Board) is responsible for setting policies, and the police chief is responsible for implementing the Board’s policies. On April 10, 2012, the Board approved Special Order 7, which instructed officers when to impound vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers. Special Order 7 limits an individual officer’s discretion to decide whether a vehicle should be impounded because it sets forth criteria for when a vehicle should be impounded and when the vehicle should be released. In addition to setting forth criteria for impounding vehicles, the special order informed officers which statute to use as authority for the impoundment.

Special Order 7’s purpose was to “establish[] procedures for impounding vehicles from unlicensed drivers, and drivers with suspended or revoked licenses.... In addition, this Order provide[d] guidance regarding the enforcement of VC Sections 22651(p)... and 14602.6(a)(1)....” The order instructed officers when to use section 22651, subdivision (p) as impound authority and when to use section 14602.6 as impound authority. It instructed officers when to impound vehicles and when to release a vehicle in lieu of an impound. If the driver had suffered a prior misdemeanor conviction, Special Order 7 required an officer to document “that the vehicle is eligible for vehicle forfeiture as delineated in Section 14607.6 VC.” Special Order 7 also described the community care-taking doctrine, which delineates constitutional principles relevant to impounding vehicles, and the special order implemented other statutes governing impounds not relevant to the parties’ arguments. The lengthy order is attached as appendix A, post, at page 920.

After the implementation of Special Order 7, the number of vehicles impounded pursuant to section 14602.6(a)(1) decreased substantially. Although the City of Los Angeles (City) claims other factors may have

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Influenced the decrease, it is undisputed that the number of vehicles impounded pursuant to section 14602.6(a)(1) decreased from 28, 796 in 2011 to 16, 242 in 2012.

2. Parties

The Los Angeles Police Department has approximately 10, 000 sworn peace officers. The League is an employee organization representing police officers, detectives, sergeants and lieutenants employed by the City. According to the League, it is the representative organization “with ...


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