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By Shawn Raymundo
The lawsuit that homeless individuals and advocacy groups supporting them had filed against the city of San Clemente for not providing adequate access to homeless shelters was dismissed in federal court on Monday, Oct. 28.
While the 12-page dismissal from U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson concludes the months-long legal battle for now, he offers the homeless individuals who filed the lawsuit, Duane Nichols and Darren James, a brief window to submit an amended complaint by Nov. 18.
“The city is pleased with the judge’s ruling on the case,” City Manager James Makshanoff said.
With the lawsuit dismissed, he added, the city can continue operating the temporary outdoor shelter on Avenida Pico until next June, when the city must find an alternative location to house the city’s homeless. Currently, he said, the city is looking at space near Avenida Fabricante and Calle Extemo.
At the time this story was posted, attorneys representing the homeless advocacy groups had returned San Clemente Times’ request for comment.
Orange County Catholic Worker, along with the Emergency Shelter Coalition (ESC) and Housing is a Human Right Orange County (HHROC), had filed the suit against the county and several cities in late February, claiming enough hasn’t been done to provide homeless shelters.
The city of San Clemente was officially served with the lawsuit on May 24, while the cities of San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point were served a few days later. The cities of Aliso Viejo and Irvine were also included in the initial lawsuit.
In mid-August, however, the court ruled to dismiss the suit against the neighboring cities for not being properly joined, while maintaining San Clemente as the primary defendant in the case. In that Aug. 12 order, the court granted the plaintiffs an opportunity to file an amended complaint, which was not supposed to “include any new or different defendants, claims, causes of action, or legal theories.”
Anderson’s latest dismissal explained that ESC and HHROC’s second amended complaint “repeated the identical insufficient allegations,” prompting the court to conclude that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their claims and would not be granting the advocacy groups specifically an opportunity for another amendment.
According to the dismissal, the plaintiffs allege that San Clement has violated the Eighth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution by threatening homeless individuals with arrest. The advocacy groups also alleged that the city violated James’ and Nichols’ due-process rights by threatening “them with citation and arrest for sleeping and keeping their property in public spaces.”
The dismissal notes that the court had tossed out the plaintiffs’ First Amendment complaint that the city and county had violated the Constitutional rights of the homeless on the grounds that Nichols and James were never cited for violating San Clemente’s anti-camping ordinance.
“They had, therefore, not suffered a violation of their Constitutional rights,” the court document stated, later adding: “Like the 1st AC’s allegations, the 2nd AC’s allegations of threat of arrest and disturbing an unhoused individual’s sleep are insufficient to state a claim for damages.”
Anderson concludes the dismissal by stating that if James or Nichols hadn’t filed an amended motion by the Nov. 18 deadline, the court “will, without further warning, issue a Judgement dismissing this action.”
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.