Sacramento District Attorney Urges City of Sacramento to Violate Federal Court Order to Stop Homeless Sweep – City Admits Unhoused Camps Cleared Despite Judge’s TRO

Possessions of a homeless person on Capital Mall Drive in Sacramento on Saturday, September 11, 2021.(Photo by Robert J Hansen)

By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – The Sacramento County District Attorney is urging the City of Sacramento to violate a federal court order and the City has apparently already broken the early August order prohibiting the clearing of homeless encampments until Aug 17, charged the Sacramento Homeless Union Tuesday.

The Union, in a letter Tuesday, said DA Thien Ho’s latest letter Monday contained “a number of ‘proposals’ accompanied by a formal notice of a pending criminal charge against the city of Sacramento for allegedly failing to enforce various ordinances against homeless encampments.”

Ho’s six-page letter, which threatened the city, contained, among other veiled and unveiled threats, a statement by Ho that “the people have spoken,” declaring complaints and comments from residents give him a mandate to force the city to arrest those who are among the roughly 10,000 people in Sacramento city and county without homes. Despite the federal court’s order.

Ho even rejected a suggestion by the city to go easy on the unhoused if they are arrested. He said the city’s suggestion of mandatory diversion—which avoids criminal penalties for people if they do certain court-ordered things, like community servic—would be, “inappropriate and unlawful.’

Union Chief Legal Counsel Anthony Prince said, “Ho’s letter appears to call upon the City of Sacramento to take actions that may violate a federal court injunction” issued by U.S. District Court Judge Troy L. Nunley Aug. 3 prohibiting the clearing of homeless encampments.

Prince said, “Ho is demanding that the City ‘clear within the next 30 days the sixteen encampments within the city identified by the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office’…The letter also ‘proposes’ that the City ‘implement citywide the same ordinance used to prohibit camping at City Hall between 6 am and 9 pm.’”

The “proposals,” added Prince, “if implemented by the City of Sacramento during the pendency of the above-referenced TRO would constitute a violation of Judge Nunley’s order.

“For the Sacramento County District Attorney to ‘encourage’ the City of Sacramento to act in disregard of a federal court order is, to us, deeply troubling and may constitute a gross abuse of his authority,” said Prince.

Prince added that “we strongly urge DA Ho to immediately retract his letter and hereby state our intention to bring this matter to the attention of Judge Nunley as well as that of California Attorney General Rob Bonta.”

However, it appears the City has already broken the TRO issued by the federal court, according to news reports that confirm the city Friday and Monday swept homeless camps around City Hall.

According to a city spokesperson, “The city respects the order issued by the federal court and has been working diligently to follow all aspects of it. The city has communicated the information contained in the order to its employees, including those in the Sacramento Police Department, Code Enforcement and other departments and divisions. 

“However, the city was previously not as effective in communicating with one of its contractors and their employees, leading to the unintentional oversights that occurred Friday and Monday. At this time, the situation involving City Hall has been addressed and remedied, with the city proactively informing the Sacramento Homeless Union this morning about the mistaken enforcement.”  

 “Prince said the city also cleared camps from outside City Hall Tuesday morning,” said the Sacramento Bee, although the city denied it.     

“If they’re going to disobey the court order not once but twice at City Hall, what does that say about our confidence that they’re obeying the (order) elsewhere in the city of Sacramento?” said Homeless Union attorney Prince to the Bee.

“Many are now going to be on the sidewalk, not protected from sun,” Prince added, noting in a new filing the Union will ask the court to require the city to show why they should not be held in an order of contempt.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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