Cases & Deals

Orange County Cities obtain dismissal of putative class claims relating to response to homelessness epidemic

Clients City of San Clemente, CA; City of Aliso Viejo, CA; City of San Juan Capistrano, CA

On behalf of the Cities of San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, and San Juan Capistrano, Jones Day successfully obtained dismissal of putative class claims raising novel legal challenges to the cities' response to the homelessness epidemic in Orange County, California. Along the way, the Firm also obtained disqualification of the federal district judge originally assigned to the case, and persuaded the district court to deny a temporary restraining order against San Clemente (in a ruling which the Ninth Circuit declined to disturb).

Jones Day's representation of the cities occurs against the backdrop of a sweeping and novel Ninth Circuit ruling. In 2019, the Ninth Circuit held that the Eighth Amendment forbids the enforcement of anti-camping ordinances against homeless individuals who have nowhere else to lawfully sleep. Martin v. City of Boise, 920 F.3d 584 (9th Cir. 2019). To comply with Martin, in May 2019, the City of San Clemente created a camping zone on public property where homeless persons may lawfully and safely camp and sleep—complete with bathrooms, lighting, security, and access to outreach services. This same model has been embraced by other cities in the Ninth Circuit, including Seattle, Washington; Eugene, Oregon; and Santa Cruz, California.

Later that month, the cities were served with a class action suit filed by three advocacy organizations and three homeless plaintiffs. The suit asserted a variety of federal and state law claims against the cities involving issues related to homelessness, including claims under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and analogous state legal provisions.

Jones Day immediately moved to disqualify the federal district judge assigned to hear the case, based on the judge's statements and ex parte contacts while presiding over two related lawsuits involving homelessness issues in Orange County. The district court granted that motion, agreeing with Jones Day that the cities are "entitled" to have their claims heard "before a judicial officer whose impartiality neither the parties nor the public have a reasonable basis to question." Soon thereafter, the district court sided with the Firm once again and denied the plaintiffs' requested temporary restraining order, which sought to shut down San Clemente's camping zone based on supposed violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and the ADA. The Ninth Circuit denied the plaintiffs' mandamus application, leaving the district court's denial intact and allowing the campsite to remain open.

On August 12, 2019, Jones Day obtained dismissal (without prejudice) of the federal and state claims against all three cities—leaving the plaintiffs to either amend their complaint or seek relief in state court instead.

Housing is a Human Right Orange County, et al. v. The County of Orange, et al., No. 8-19-cv-00388 (C.D. Cal.)