Laguna Beach is one of the most vacationed beaches in the US. Last week, a judge ruled on multiple filings against the beach alleging that the City of Laguna is in violation of discrimination due to their policies against homeless people taking up residence at the beach. Specifically, the allegations state that the City of Laguna discriminates against the disabled by disallowing homeless people.
A class action lawsuit was initiated against the city by Phil Kohn, and the case was presided over by Judge Andrew Guilford. The class action suit is being filed on behalf of all mentally or physically disabled people who have either been cited or will be cited for violations of the city and state laws regarding homeless people.
In 2015, a lawsuit was waged against the city regarding their policies about people either lodging or sleeping in public areas. People who were disabled, yet unable to find shelter in emergency shelters, were given citations by the city for sleeping in public places. The lawsuit maintains that to issue citations to disabled people or to disallow them to sleep or lodge in public is “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is disallowed by the Constitution. It also goes against Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Section 405 of the Rehabilitation act.
Alternative Sleeping Location (ASL) is a shelter that provides sleeping arrangements for people in the Laguna Canyon area. They have over 45 beds, laundry services, showers, and meals available, as well as transportation to Laguna’s bus depot. Operated under contract with the City of Laguna, a nonprofit group named Friendship Shelter currently runs it. A personal injury lawyer Santa Ana, can confirm the problem lies in the huge population of homeless people who suffer from mental and physical disabilities. The services of ASL are sometimes full or difficult to obtain.
The class action suit will have a larger impact than if the case had been initiated by simply a few individuals who have received citations. The judge in the case has already denied the motion for summary judgment, which would allow for a judgment without trial.
The judge in the case stated that a trial is necessary to investigate whether there have been incidents of discrimination. For that to be the case, there would have had to have been hurdles to access for disabled people, and the facts of the case simply aren’t clear-cut. Guilford claims that it is necessary to figure out if there are discriminatory practices to access, and if there are, then it is essential to understand how to overcome them.
The motion for summary judgment was put forth because the vans used to transport disabled people to and from the shelter were not equipped with a ramp or a lift, disallowing those in a wheelchair access to transportation. For the class action suit to be accepted by the court, it must satisfy four various components of the federal law. Each member included in the class action must have the same complaint or hardship. Lawyers representing the disabled maintain that they are all adversely affected by the policies that are in the city’s ordinances about public sleeping and lodging. Guilford has accepted the claim for a class action suit, believing that all four criteria have been met to proceed.
Also at issue is the lack of space for all the disabled homeless people around Laguna beach. If there are only 45 beds available, then it discriminates against the remaining others who are forced to try to find refuge elsewhere. In most instances, the only other place for them to find a safe place to stay is on a park bench or the beach. If they are given citations for using the only option available to them due to their disability, then that is unconstitutional and goes against the civil liberties that they are afforded.
Estimates show that there were as many as 80 homeless people in the Laguna area in 2009. Due to an economic downturn since that time, that number has likely increased, which has left many homeless people without options, being penalized when they have no other recourse.
The trial is set to start sometime in August, and it is likely to be a very polarizing topic around Laguna Beach. Personal injury lawyers aim to provide compensation for those who were wrongly and unfairly cited, which put their lives in danger and gave them no recourse for safety.