The homeless are ready for round two in court with the City of Fresno and Caltrans. An attorney for the homeless claims his clients' personal property was destroyed during cleanup of homeless encampments last October. The last time the homeless took the City and Caltrans to court they settled for $2.3 million.
The new legal squabble stems from last year's cleanup of homeless camps in Downtown Fresno. The City of Fresno and Caltrans took extra measures to post notices warning the homeless that they were coming to clean up the mess. But Chris Schneider with Central California Legal Services says they didn't go far enough. "The notices were not clear. The notices were not placed on every shelter or tent. If someone is gonna be evicted from their home they have to get personal notice to that."
Former Federal Judge Oliver Wanger presided over the first class action lawsuit that was settled in 2007. He believes the legal spat centers over observing the administrative order that evolved from the settlement. "What we will see is I think that the plaintiffs on the one hand believe they are not being performed and the City is saying publicly they have devoted very substantial resources to compliance and that they recognize the issues."
When the clean up occurred the City and Caltrans bagged and locked up personal items belonging to the homeless and made them available in storage bins downtown. Schneider says the lawsuit boils down to a person's constitutional rights. "They may not own the property that they were on. They may have been on a city sidewalk however that tent and everything that was in it was their property. And although it may be very little to you and me it's everything these folks own."
Fresno City Attorney James Sanchez had this response: "The City has taken extensive individual rights while allowing the City to address public health and safety issues presented within the City. The current City policy was reviewed by both the Federal Court and the American Civil Liberties Union as complying with individual rights."
In all there are nine new lawsuits on behalf of 12 homeless people. One attorney Chris Schneider believes their cases are very strong and clear cut. He says they are open to settlement.
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