Protecting Homeless Residents From Unlawful Property Seizure

Working with Public Counsel, Munger, Tolles & Olson obtained a landmark settlement on August 22, 2016 in litigation brought on behalf of homeless residents and a local church against the City of Pomona regarding the unlawful seizure of property.

Munger Tolles and Public Counsel filed the lawsuit on March 18, 2016, alleging the city engaged in unlawful, unconstitutional and inhumane practices that resulted in the seizure and destruction of some of its homeless residents’ most important personal possessions, including medications, vital documents and irreplaceable keepsakes. In response, the city agreed to halt the unlawful seizures temporarily while the parties sought to establish a program transforming how the city treats its homeless residents. The settlement represents the culmination of those efforts and resolves the litigation.

Among other things, the settlement requires the city to:

  • honor homeless residents’ right to keep a certain amount of attended property with them at all times;
  • fabricate and make available nearly 400 storage lockers free of charge for homeless residents to store personal property;
  • abide by a stringent notice and storage program for property seized by the city, including the requirement that the city store all seized property for 90 days free of charge;
  • provide semiannual reports on the state of its efforts to end homelessness to Munger Tolles and Public Counsel; and
  • cease enforcement of anti-camping and unauthorized-areas-to-sleep ordinances until the city has enough shelter beds, housing options or campgrounds to safely accommodate its homeless population.

“After months of negotiations, we have a court-approved settlement that can serve as a model for other cities struggling to respect the rights of their homeless residents while fulfilling their mandate to keep public spaces accessible to all,” said Christina Giorgio, staff attorney of Public Counsel’s Community Development Project in a press release.

A video about the lawsuit is available here. The Munger Tolles attorneys representing the plaintiffs include Bradley S. Phillips and John B. Major.