Possessions get cleared from the Spokane St. encampment. Photo by Sara Bernard

Possessions get cleared from the Spokane St. encampment. Photo by Sara Bernard

Federal Judge Won’t Stop the Sweeps As He Considers Lawsuit

The judge also sounded skeptical note on the merits of the suit.

A federal judge has ruled against homeless campers who are suing the City of Seattle for destroying their property during encampment evictions.

On Wednesday, Judge Ricardo S. Martinez denied the plaintiff’s motions for a preliminary injunction to stop the destruction.

As we reported, Martinez previously declined to grant a temporary restraining order, telling the plaintiffs to come back with more evidence. They are four homeless Seattleites—Lisa Hooper, Brandie Osborne, Kayla Willis and Reavy Washington—who had hoped the judge would treat them as representatives of the larger class of people who are dispossessed by sweeps, as well as Real Change, Trinity Parish of Seattle and the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia; in his ruling Wednesday, Martinez also denied the motion for class certification.

Martinez’s ruling offers a skeptical appraisal of the plaintiff’s complaints: “The Court agrees that Plaintiffs have not shown they are likely to succeed on the merits of their…challenges to the City’s Updated Encampment Rules.”

Considering the question of whether the City should have to store items that are wet, muddy, or in “less than perfect condition,” Martinez dwells at length on items splashed with “contaminated urine,” then concludes that since “diseases can in fact be transmitted by urine from infected persons (and animals)…the Court is not convinced that the City’s policy with respect to urine-contaminated items or wet items is ‘not grounded in fact.’”

More generally, Martinez found that as long as the plaintiffs cannot exhaustively document the vast majority of cases of unconstitutional harm being caused as police officers chase homeless people in circles around the city, the plaintiffs do not qualify for judicial recourse.

“The Court continues to recognize the hardships faced by Plaintiffs, and it acknowledges their constitutional property rights,” he wrote. “The optimum solution for the difficult issues raised in this lawsuit may, ultimately, only be found outside of a courtroom.”

It is not yet clear what the next step is for the case. The plaintiffs, represented by the state ACLU, can choose to appeal.

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

King County Looks to Buy 65,000 Acres for Conservation

The proposed plan would protect forests, trails, shorelines, and farms.

About 80 people gathered on Tuesday afternoon in support of Maru Mora-Villalpando, who entered deportation proceedings earlier this year. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
A Seattle Battle of Deportation Vs. Freedom of Information

While facing deportation, Maru Mora-Villalpando has been denied public ICE documents that could show widespread targeting of immigrant rights organizers.

Most of the tenants at show cause hearings have fallen behind on rent, said Housing Justice Project Managing Attorney Edmund Witter. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
The Last Stop Before Homelessness

How the odds are stacked against low-income tenants in the County’s eviction court system.

This petroleum refinery in Anacortes is run by Shell, one of the defendants in the suit brought by King County. Photo by Walter Siegmund/Wikipedia Commons
Can King County Win Its Lawsuit Against Big Oil?

Legal experts think past lawsuits against the tobacco industry increase the odds for a favorable outcome.

Beth Knowles is the Mayoral Lead for Homelessness and Rough Sleeping at Greater Manchester Mayor’s Office. Photo by Candace Doyal
Beth Knowles Discusses the U.K. Tackling Homelessness Through Art

During her Seattle visit, the head of Manchester’s homelessness task force talked about creative solutions to the global problem.

Low Numbers of Lake Sammamish Kokanee Raise Fears of Extinction

Only 19 kokanee salmon returned to spawn this year.

Photo courtesy King County Elections
Governor and Secretary of State to Fund Statewide Prepaid Ballot Postage

King County, however, won’t get any of that money.

The Neighborhood Action Coalition and Transit Riders Union projected its support of the head tax on May 10, 2018. Photo by Jennifer Durham/Flickr
Seattle City Council Passes Reduced Head Tax

The measure decreases the original proposal by 45 percent, leaving some to question if it’ll raise enough to properly address homelessness.

Most Read