Court Limits Enforcement of Public Sleeping Ordinances

September 2018
Number 50

A federal appeals court has held that a city could not enforce local ordinances that prohibit homeless persons from sleeping outside when shelter is not available. Municipalities with similar ordinances may be affected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Martin v. City of Boise.

Background

At a time when homelessness is an issue that cities and counties are increasingly called to address, a common trend is to prohibit sleeping and camping on the sidewalk, in parks, and in other public places. The City of Boise enacted ordinances to do just that. The ordinances prohibit the use of “any of the streets, sidewalks, parks, or public places as a camping place at any time” where “camping” is defined as “the use of public property as a temporary or permanent place of dwelling, lodging, or residence” and “[o]ccupying, lodging, or sleeping in any building, structure, or public place, whether public or private” without permission.

Several homeless residents challenged enforcement of the Boise ordinances. The factual basis for their claim was fairly straightforward: Plaintiffs are homeless; there is not enough room at the homeless shelters for all of the city’s homeless; plaintiffs and other homeless persons have no choice but to sleep outside and in public when the shelters are full; therefore, plaintiffs and other homeless persons are forced to violate the city’s ordinances. Their claim rested on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, the Amendment’s “substantive limits on what the government may criminalize” was at issue.

The court examined prior U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning narcotics addiction and public drunkenness, as well as the since-vacated Ninth Circuit decision in Jones v. City of Los Angeles that restrained enforcement of an ordinance that prohibited sitting, lying, and sleeping in public. The court adopted the reasoning of its prior ruling inJones, finding Boise’s ordinances effectively criminalize the status of being homeless, as opposed to undesirable conduct that can be prohibited.

The Martin court concluded that “the Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping, or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter.” “[A]s long as there is no option of sleeping indoors,” the court ruled, “the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”

Takeaways

Despite the ruling, there is likely a future for sleeping and camping ordinances. The court declared that “[its] holding is a narrow one” and made some important qualifications regarding its ruling. Some clues are also found in the text of the decision. For example, the court’s regular reference to “public property” suggests that sleeping and camping ordinances may still be enforced when the conduct occurs on private property, regardless of shelter space.

The court further made clear, albeit in a footnote, that the ruling “does not cover individuals who do have access to adequate temporary shelter, whether because they have the means to pay for it or because it is realistically available to them for free, but who choose not to use it.” Moreover, it did not say a city can never prohibit sleeping in public when there is insufficient shelter space. Without making an express decision on this point, the court said that “an ordinance prohibiting sitting, lying, or sleeping outside at particular times or in particular locations might well be constitutionally permissible,” and, “an ordinance barring the obstruction of public rights of way or the erection of certain structures” may be acceptable. This may mean that permitting outdoor sleeping in designated places and times will permit widespread enforcement of such an ordinance elsewhere.

Throughout Martin, the court focused on the natural and necessary act of sleeping, stating that “the two ordinances criminalize the simple act of sleeping outside on public property.” This raises an interesting point about camping ordinances. The court was critical of the city’s enforcement of the camping ordinance against homeless persons “with some elementary bedding,” sleeping “with blankets,” or when other indicators of “camping” are absent. It appears that the problem did not lie with the camping prohibition itself, which would prevent the act of constructing a camp or other shelter, but with sleeping and taking basic precautions in order to sleep outside.

The court stated that its ruling does not require cities to provide homeless shelters. But, when there are more homeless people than available shelter beds, the ordinances will be unenforceable. Practical unavailability of shelter beds may also impact enforcement. During the litigation, Boise instituted a “no space, no enforcement” protocol where the shelters would self-report if they were full so the ordinances would not be enforced that night. However, one shelter had a policy of not turning away anyone seeking shelter and never reported that it was full. As a result, the exception was never actually triggered. There was also evidence of limits on the number of consecutive days someone could stay at one shelter before a mandatory stay-away period. Additionally, due to the time of day that beds were assigned and preferences given to returning guests, a shelter with available room might stop making assignments for the night before prospective guests learn they are unable to get a bed at the other shelter, leaving them with no place to go.

The city reportedly will appeal the panel decision to the full Ninth Circuit. Until new decisions are issued, this ruling applies and municipalities that prohibit sleeping or camping in public places should review their ordinances and consult legal counsel concerning continued enforcement.

If you would like more information about the Martin decision or have any questions regarding municipal sleeping or camping ordinances, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook orTwitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

Jennel Van Bindsbergen

Partner

Wesley L. Carlson

Associate

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.

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New Dates for Education Officials to Assume Office, Effective January 1

September 2018
Number 49

A new law will change the date that members of a county board of education, school district governing board, or community college district governing board take office. Assembly Bill (AB) 2449, which resolves clashing Education Code and Elections Code provisions, becomes effective on January 1, 2019.

Background

Existing Education Code provisions require newly-elected county board of education members to be seated on the last Friday in November and newly-elected school and community college district board members to be seated on the first Friday in December. The Elections Code provides that during even-year elections, county election officials have up to 30 days after Election Day to certify voting results. Thus, certification of the vote could occur after the dates for seating new board members. This conflict has up until now created a conundrum for governing boards, which were forced to either abide by the Education Code and seat new members before election results were certified or ignore the Education Code and wait for the completion of the certification process to seat new board members.

AB 2449 amends sections 1007, 1009, 5017, and 72027 of the Education Code to resolve this conflict. The law will change the date on which newly-elected county, school, and community college board members must be seated to the second Friday in December in the year of election. There is an exception for members of the county board of education elected in a primary election: They take office on the first day of July. The new law also changes the date of the organizational meeting, from on or after the last Friday in November to on or after the second Friday in December, except for the county boards of education whose members are elected in the primary election. Those boards’ organizational meetings will occur on or after the first day of July. Finally, the bill changes the date on which governing board members vacate office from the first Friday in December to the second Friday in December.

Takeaways

School districts, community college districts, and county boards of education should note the new dates for seating new board members, vacating office, and holding organizational meetings, effective January 1, 2019. These changes will not affect the upcoming 2018 elections.

If you have any questions about AB 2449, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

Louis T. Lozano

Partner

Benjamin Brown

Associate

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.

Public Records Act Does Not Require Creation of Generalized Electronic Data

September 2018
Number 48

A California appellate court has ruled that public agencies are not required to provide anonymized data in response to California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests when doing so would require the public agency to create new data.

Background

The CPRA requires public entities to disclose public records unless there is a specific legal exemption. The courts have previously affirmed that the CPRA does not require public agencies to create new records to satisfy a CPRA request. However, in some circumstances public agencies are required by statute to compile or extract data from electronic records, provided that the requester pays for any associated programming or computer services costs.

Sander v. State Bar of California

In Sander v. State Bar of California, decided on August 23, researchers made a CPRA request for information from the State Bar of California related to applicants to the California Bar Examination, such as applicant race, law school, year of graduation, and undergraduate grade point average, in order to study bar passage rates among racial and ethnic groups. The researchers proposed four methods by which the State Bar could provide access to this data without violating the privacy interests of the applicants. The first method was for the State Bar to create a physical “data enclave” where the public could access and analyze the data under State Bar supervision after it had been stripped of personal identifiers and other sensitive information. The other three proposed methods involved providing anonymized data through various means. All of the methods of anonymizing the data involved some level of “generalizing” the data, such as replacing specific grade point averages with averages or ranges and replacing law school names with law school classifications.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the general principal that the CPRA requires public agencies to provide access to their existing records but does not require the creation of new records to satisfy a request. While public agencies are required to search, extract, compile, or redact electronically stored data, the court held that a request that requires a public agency to create new data is outside of the CPRA. The court also held that nothing in the CPRA required the State Bar to create a supervised “data enclave”.

Takeaways

  • Public agencies are not required to create new records in response to CPRA requests.
  • While public agencies are required to search, extract, compile, or redact electronically stored data, public agencies do not have to create new data in response to CPRA requests.
  • Public agencies are not required to anonymize data by replacing existing data with new, “generalized” data.

From a broader standpoint, this case supports public agencies that are asked to alter or manipulate existing documents or data to meet the demands of a public records requestor. As observed by the Sander court, a public agency “cannot be required to create a new record by changing the substantive content of an existing records or replacing existing data with new data”.

If you have any questions about Sander, or about the CPRA in general, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

Harold M. Freiman

Partner

Nicholas J. Clair

Associate

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.

Legislature Increases Bid Limits under Uniform Public Construction Cost Accounting Act

September 2018
Number 47

Public project bid limits are set to increase for public agencies that have opted into uniform cost accounting under the California Uniform Public Construction Cost Accounting Act (CUPCCAA). Assembly Bill (AB) 2249 has been signed by Governor Jerry Brown and is set to take effect on January 1, 2019.

Lawmakers drafted the bill to address construction cost increases that have occurred since the limits were last increased, in 2011.

Background

California law generally requires public agencies to competitively bid public works contracts for all construction projects subject to certain thresholds: over $4,000 for counties, $5,000 for cities, and $15,000 for school and sanitary districts. CUPCCAA, codified in California Public Contract Code sections 22000 through 22045, was created in 1983 to provide public agencies with an alternative, streamlined process for executing public works projects. In exchange for agreeing to follow the cost accounting procedures prescribed by the California Uniform Construction Code Account Commission (CUCCAC), the Act currently allows a public agency to use its own workforce to perform public projects of $45,000 or less by the agency’s force account, negotiated contract, or purchase order, and allows agencies to let contracts of $175,000 or less without submitting the projects to formal bid. Existing law also allows the informal process to be used even if bids received are as high as $187,500, if it determines that the agency’s cost estimate was reasonable.

AB 2249 will increase the above dollar limits for projects that may be performed without bid pursuant to CUPCCAA as follows:

  • The force account limit will be increased from $45,000 to $60,000.
  • The informal bid limit will be increased from $175,000 to $200,000.
  • Informal bids can be awarded upon a determination that the cost estimate was reasonable up to a total of $212,500 instead of $187,500.

Takeaways

Public agencies, including cities, counties, school districts, and special districts, can voluntarily elect to participate in CUPCCAA by adopting a resolution and filing a copy of the resolution with the State Controller’s Office. Opting into CUPCCAA may provide a public agency with time and cost savings and greater flexibility.

For more information on CUPCCAA and whether it could be a useful tool for your agency, or on bidding in general, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

Harold M. Freiman

Partner

Bradley R. Sena

Associate

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.

Ninth Circuit Shoots Down Challenge to Law Prohibiting Concealed-Carry Permit Holders from Possessing Firearms on School Property

September 2018
Number 46

In Gallinger v. Becerra, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to a 2015 change to California’s Gun-Free School Zone Act that removed an exemption allowing concealed-carry permit holders to carry firearms on school grounds, but maintained the same exemption for retired peace officers.

The Ninth Circuit held that lawmakers had a rational basis for approving this change, effected by Senate Bill (SB) 707, and also that the partial elimination of the exemption did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Background

A collection of public interest groups and individuals challenged SB 707 on two bases: that SB 707’s treatment of concealed-carry permit holders is analogous to a similar ban in the Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA) struck down in Silveira v. Lockyer, and that SB 707 violates the Equal Protection Clause because it favors a politically powerful group and disfavors a politically unpopular one. The Ninth Circuit found both arguments unpersuasive.

The plaintiffs, citing Silveira, argued that distinctions between concealed carry holders and retired peace officers do not serve a valid legislative purpose. However, the Ninth Circuit distinguished its holding in Silveira, in which the court determined that the AWCA’s retired-officer exemption was “wholly unconnected to any legitimate state interest.” The court reasoned that it did not serve a valid purpose to exempt retired officers from AWCA’s ban affecting one specific type of firearm-assault weapons-but found that SB 707’s ban on all guns on school grounds did serve a legitimate policy interest. The Ninth Circuit determined that SB 707’s retired-officer exemption serves a valid public purpose, deferring to the Legislature’s reasoning that allowing retired peace officers to carry weapons on school grounds both provided for the officer’s safety and also the public’s safety. The court additionally determined that the legislative history of SB 707, which detailed the Legislature’s concerns about gun-rights organizations advising gun owners to bring firearms onto school campuses in the wake of several school shootings, provided sufficient rationale for ending the concealed-carry exemption.

The Ninth Circuit was similarly unpersuaded by the plaintiffs’ argument that SB 707 violated the Equal Protection Clause by disfavoring a politically unpopular group, concealed-carry owners, and favoring a politically powerful group, retired peace officers. The court held that there was no evidence of explicit legislative intent to harm concealed-carry holders. Evidence demonstrating that retention of the retired-officer exemption was the product of political lobbying also did not show impermissible discrimination: Favoring retired officers did not show a parallel intent to harm concealed-carry holders.

Takeaways

The court’s application of current events to legal aspects surrounding gun control is notable. In the Gallinger decision, the Ninth Circuit cited numerous school shootings to support both the Legislature’s purpose in banning concealed-carry holders-to reduce the number of guns on campus-and also, the Legislature’s intent to provide for safety by allowing retired officers to carry firearms on school campuses or in school zones. Going forward, school administrators and personnel responsible for school safety can rely upon the Gun-Free School Zone Act to prohibit firearms on school grounds, regardless of whether someone possesses a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

More broadly, Gallinger shows a significant level of judicial deference to the Legislature’s findings of public purpose related to school safety. Such safety policies and gun control legislation often inspire tension with an individual’s rights under the Second Amendment and the public’s right to access to government facilities. Recognizing a newfound emphasis on school safety, the court in Gallinger showed deference to the rationale advanced for both ending the concealed-carry exemption and upholding the retired-officer exemption.

For more information about this decision and its impact on school districts, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

Thomas R. Manniello

Partner

Tilman A. Heyer

Associate

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.

Ninth Circuit Upholds California’s Voters’ Choice Act

September 2018
Number 45

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the constitutionality of California’s Voters’ Choice Act (VCA), which provides for an all-mail ballot election system. The court’s opinion validates the ability of states and local election officials to implement and operate systems that are designed to increase voter turnout.

In this litigation, Lozano Smith represented respondent County of Madera, which had opted in to the VCA system for the 2018 election cycle and beyond.

Background

Responding to low voter turnout in the 2014 election cycle, the California Legislature enacted the VCA in 2016. Prior to the VCA, California voters could opt to vote by mail on an individual basis. Under the VCA, a ballot is automatically mailed to every registered voter 29 days before the election date. A voter may cast the ballot by mailing the ballot back in, depositing the ballot at a designated locked mailbox location, or turning in the ballot at a “vote center” (which replaces traditional polling places).

However, the VCA did not require all California counties to adopt the new system. Instead, under a pilot program, 14 enumerated counties were authorized to opt in after January 1, 2018. With an exception for Los Angeles County (which has its own set of options by statute), all other counties may opt in to the VCA system on or after January 1, 2020. For the 2018 election cycle, five counties-Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo-opted in to the VCA system. The option of voting by mail is still open in non-VCA counties.

Jeffrey Short, et al. v. Edmund G. Brown et al.

On February 26, 2018, plaintiffs Jeffrey Short, Trina T.R. Heter, and the Sacramento Valley Lincoln Club sued the State of California and the counties of Madera, Nevada, and Sacramento, seeking to enjoin the operation of the VCA. The individual plaintiffs were citizens of counties who could not opt in to the VCA until 2020, and they alleged that the VCA’s structure violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by permitting voters in certain counties to receive a mail ballot automatically, while requiring voters in other counties to register to receive a mail ballot. According to the plaintiffs, this would result in the dilution of votes in non-VCA counties because voter turnout would likely be greater in VCA counties, as intended by the Legislature.

In the trial court, the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction was denied based on the hardship that enjoining the 2018 elections would create. However, the trial court also held that the plaintiffs had raised “serious questions on the merits” as to the constitutionality of the VCA related to vote dilution.

The plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On June 22, 2018, the Ninth Circuit denied the appeal. The Ninth Circuit held that the injunction request was properly denied based on hardship, and further held that the injunction should also have been denied based on a lack of substantive merit. Consistent with established constitutional law holding that challenges to state election laws are only strictly scrutinized when there is a severe burden on the right to vote, the Ninth Circuit held that the VCA did not burden the right to vote, but simply made it easier for some voters to cast mail ballots by mail. The burden on non-VCA county voters in having to request a mail ballot was considered minimal at best, and thus not demanding of strict scrutiny. Assuming such a slight burden even would exist, the Ninth Circuit held that California had a legitimate interest in increasing voter turnout, and that there was a specific interest in the incremental phasing that the VCA provides for, to allow for reporting back on the results of the VCA for legislative guidance.

Takeaways

The Ninth Circuit’s opinion supports the proposition that unless there is a substantial burden placed on the voters, state legislatures have ample discretion as to how to deal with low voter turnout, including the implementation of pilot programs that can eventually be applied to the entire state.

If you have any questions about Short et al. v. Brown et al., or the VCA in general, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

Sloan R. Simmons

Partner

Michael R. Linden

Senior Counsel

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.

Field Trip Immunity Does Not Apply to a Community College’s Hosting of an Intercollegiate Athletic Event

August 2018
Number 44

Community college districts are generally immune from liability for injuries sustained in the course of field trips and excursions under the California Code of Regulations, title 5, section 55220. However, inAnselmo v. Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, an appellate court determined that such immunity does not apply to an injury sustained during an intercollegiate athletic tournament.

Background

In this case, a community college hosted an intercollegiate beach volleyball tournament at its campus. During the competition, a beach volleyball player, who attended a different community college district, was injured when she dove into the sand and hit her knee on a rock.

The student filed a complaint against the college, claiming that she was injured due to a dangerous condition that existed at the college’s facility. The college sought to dismiss the case, contending that the field trips and excursions immunity under section 55220 applied.

The court disagreed with the college and concluded that section 55220 did not apply to this situation. The court determined that the college did not conduct the student’s field trip or excursion (i.e., direct or manage the actual travel). Rather, it provided the sports facility that the student traveled to with her team. As the host of the intercollegiate athletic competition, the college had an ongoing responsibility to provide reasonably safe premises to all teams participating in the tournament, including the visiting beach volleyball players.

Takeaways

Field trips and excursions immunity has specific and limited application for community college districts. While the court did not expressly state that such limitations apply to immunity provided to K-12 school districts, it did note the similarities in the statutory immunity language for K-12 districts. Finally, this case highlights the importance of public entities maintaining their property in a safe condition.

If you have any questions regarding the Anselmo case or field trip immunity in general, please contact the authors of this Client News Brief or an attorney at one of our eight offices located statewide. You can also visit our website, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or download our Client News Brief App.

Written by:

Edward J. Sklar

Partner

Aria G. Link

Associate

©2017 Lozano Smith

As the information contained herein is necessarily general, its application to a particular set of facts and circumstances may vary. For this reason, this News Brief does not constitute legal advice. We recommend that you consult with your counsel prior to acting on the information contained herein.