Mar 01 2013
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to allow police and city workers to seize or destroy property that homeless people leave unattended on sidewalks, saying Skid Row homeless encampments presented a public-health risk.
The greater Los Angeles area has one of the nation’s largest populations of homeless people, and the city’s legal fight is seen as having implications for how other municipalities deal with transients.
The city had removed or destroyed property left unattended on sidewalks during cleaning drives, but eight homeless Skid Row residents sued in 2011 to stop the practice.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld a lower court ruling that found the city may not take homeless people’s property under provisions of the U.S. Constitution that protect against unreasonable search and seizure and uphold the right to due process before being deprived of property.
Papers filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by attorneys for Los Angeles cited a recent tuberculosis outbreak in downtown Los Angeles in their request to overturn the appeals court ruling.
“We have an obligation to the homeless, as well as to the other residents and businesses on Skid Row, to ensure their health through regularly cleaning Skid Row’s streets and sidewalks,” City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said in a statement.
“The current outbreak of tuberculosis among that most vulnerable population should serve as a stern reminder to us all of just who and what is at risk in this matter,” he said.
Some 4,500 people on Skid Row are believed to have been exposed to tuberculosis in the latest outbreak, the city’s petition said.