By Cari Hachmann
U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson has dismissed claims made by homeless rights advocates in a lawsuit against several South County cities and the county, “for lack of standing with leave to amend.”
According to the federal court order released Monday, Aug. 12, the court further dropped the cities of Aliso Viejo, San Juan Capistrano, Irvine and Dana Point from the case, but left San Clemente and the County of Orange in the lawsuit.
“Because the Court has dropped all of the defendants except San Clemente and the County, the Court will analyze the sufficiency of the 1st AC’s (First Amended Complaint) claims against only San Clemente,” the court order states.
The court found that federal law does not allow the plaintiffs—Housing is a Human Right Orange County, Orange County Catholic Worker and Emergency Shelter Coalition, along with homeless individuals; Bruce Stroebel, Duane Nichols and Darren James—to combine claims into a single action against multiple municipalities, as “each have their own ordinances… and other local circumstances that require individualized determinations,” according to the court order.
On July 1, the three cities of San Clemente, Aliso Viejo and San Juan Capistrano filed a motion to dismiss the Housing is a Human Rights case, which alleges the cities’ anti-camping ordinances and other laws violate homeless civil rights under the Housing Accountability Act.
The three cities intended to dismiss the case in part under federal rule of civil procedure due to lack of standing and in part due to failure to state a claim.
Judge Anderson agreed with all of the arguments advanced by the cities. In the court order, Anderson “declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s allegations of violations of the Housing Accountability Act.”
While he dismissed the homeless advocacy groups’ claims over a “lack of standing” he’s giving the plaintiffs an opportunity to amend their complaint.
The plaintiffs have until Sept. 16 to file a “second amended complaint” or face dismissal of the case. The plaintiffs “shall not include any new or different defendants, claims, causes of action, or legal theories other than those specifically authorized in this Order…” the court order stated.
Acting San Clemente Mayor Dan Bane helped clarify the outcome of Judge Anderson’s court order.
“Basically what (the Judge) said is all of the claims in the First Amended Complaint are deficient and invalid as a matter of law,” Bane said. “He dismissed the claims, but gave the Plaintiffs an opportunity to file a Second Amended Complaint to try to state a valid claim.”
Bane said, as for the cities adjoined in the homeless lawsuit, “The Court said, ‘You can’t do that. You can’t join a bunch of different cities together who have different ordinances and policies.’”
He added that if the homeless advocacy groups want to pursue claims against each of those cities, “They are going to have to refile against them individually and establish standing to pursue any claims at all.”