City of L.A. can’t seize and discard homeless people’s bulky possessions, U.S. appeals court says

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Tents line the street in Skid Row in Los Angeles, California on Sept. 17, 2019. (ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Tents line the street in Skid Row in Los Angeles, California on Sept. 17, 2019. (ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld an injunction preventing the city of Los Angeles from taking and destroying bulky items left by homeless people on public property.

The 2-1 ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the city ordinance violated the 4th Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable government seizure of their property, “even when that property is stored in public areas,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Judge Michelle T. Friedland, writing for the majority, said past court decisions have made it clear that the government may not destroy unabandoned personal property left in parks and on sidewalks and streets. “The city is free to draft a lawful version” of the ordinance, she wrote.

The LA ordinance reviewed by the court allowed for the removal of most items too large to fit into a 60-gallon container, the common size of household trash bins picked by the city. City workers were not permitted to seize fully constructed tents, bicycles, walkers, crutches or wheelchairs, the Times said.

A group of homeless individuals and advocacy organizations brought the lawsuit after the City Council adopted the ordinance in 2016.

City officials didn’t immediately comment. The city can appeal the ruling to a larger panel of the 9th Circuit.

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