CITY HALL — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against City Hall filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that accused Santa Monica officials of harassing and intimidating homeless residents in an attempt to drive them out of town.

The suit was dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning the ACLU is barred from bringing a future action on the same claim.

According to court papers filed on Monday, the dismissal was made “on the basis that the parties have reached an agreement to resolve the case out of court.”

Though the dismissal appeared to be a victory for City Hall, where members of the City Council were united in condemning the suit as baseless, officials on Thursday declined to reveal details of the out-of-court agreement with the ACLU.

City Manager Rod Gould said the parties are still working on the resolution agreement and are not prepared to discuss it.

“At this time, that’s all we can say until it’s finalized,” he said.

Mark Rosenbaum, the ACLU of Southern California’s legal director, could not be reached for comment.

Several sources familiar with the lawsuit, though, said the resolution agreement would not require Santa Monica to make a payment, change a law or policy, or admit to fault.

A provision in the proposed resolution agreement with the ACLU had required Santa Monica to consider participating in a lawsuit accusing Los Angeles County of failing to provide adequate homelessness services. But a source knowledgeable about the ACLU talks said that provision of the proposed resolution was in doubt.

Reached on Thursday, Joel Bellman, press deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, said he would be surprised if Santa Monica officials signed onto a lawsuit against the county, which in the past has partnered with City Hall on programs like the homeless court, which aims to divert homeless individuals out of the criminal justice system and into recovery.

“I can’t conceive of a situation where they would be party to a lawsuit against the county over the adequacy of homelessness services after all the support, financial assistance and collaboration that we’ve given them in addressing problems in this service area,” Bellman said.

Filed last July, the ACLU’s complaint alleged that City Hall had “for all intents and purposes … made it a crime to be homeless within [Santa Monica’s] borders and instituted a policy and practice of using its police officers to harass and intimidate homeless residents in order to force them to leave Santa Monica and relocate to nearby communities such as Venice, Malibu, and downtown Los Angeles.”

It went on to allege that City Hall had violated homeless individuals’ civil rights by “selectively and discriminatorily” citing homeless people for minor offenses like sitting, sleeping or smoking cigarettes in public while failing to provide adequate shelter and services to its homeless population.

The ACLU collaborated with attorneys from the law firm Munger Tolles & Olson.

City Hall officials denied the claims and argued it was misguided for the ACLU to target Santa Monica, which spends more than $5 million annually on homelessness programs.

On Thursday, Mayor Bobby Shriver said he hoped the ACLU would focus its efforts on different government entities involved with homelessness services.

“I think it’s shocking and hypocritical for the ACLU and Munger Tolles to waste their valuable resources on this failed lawsuit,” he said. “I hope they will turn their attention to the Veterans Administration, [which has] left thousands of veterans homeless on the streets of every city in Los Angeles County.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *