Homeless Union Files Official Complaint with California State Bar, Charges Sacramento District Attorney Misconduct for Interfering with Federal Court Order, Endangering Lives of Unhoused

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 – Chief Counsel of the Sacramento Homeless Union Wednesday—charging he is “required to report misconduct by another lawyer”—filed an official complaint with the State Bar of California against Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho for allegedly interfering with a federal court order and endangering lives of the unhoused.

“California lawyers are required to report misconduct by another lawyer. If I did not report the District Attorney’s attempts to bully the City of Sacramento into violating a temporary restraining order issued by a District Court judge…I would be disregarding my own professional obligation under Rule 8.3,” Homeless Union lawyer Anthony Prince told The Vanguard.

Prince added, “It’s now in the hands of the State Bar, which will conduct its own investigation and determine if Thien Ho has broken any rules and, if so, what should be done about it.”

In his State Bar complaint, Prince wrote, “I believe that Thien Ho has abused and misused his position as Sacramento District Attorney and violated the Rules of Professional Responsibility” after U.S. District Court Judge Troy L. Nunley granted a temporary restraining order and stopped the city of Sacramento from clearing homeless encampments during the extreme temperatures forecast for the Sacramento area.

Prince complained, “Ho wrote and publicly released an official letter in which, inter alia, he demanded that the City of Sacramento clear sixteen (16) homeless encampments identified by the District Attorney and institute a city-wide prohibition against daytime camping…(Ho) stated that if his demands were not met within thirty (30) days, he would bring civil and/or criminal charges against the City of Sacramento.”

The union, added Prince, contacted Ho, “protesting his demands on the City to enforce anti-camping ordinances then enjoined per federal court order (and) has been abusing his position as Sacramento District Attorney since at least June 30, 2023 when he issued a letter…containing exaggerated claims of rampant crime allegedly being committed by unhoused persons in the vicinity of the main courthouse and demanding that the City of Sacran1ento either begin enforcing its various anti-camping ordinances and threatening civil suit and/or criminal charges should the City fail to do so.”

Prince noted, “As part of his criminal investigation of the City of Sacramento, Mr. Ho has solicited members of the public to respond to a survey and provide evidence of how they have been ‘negatively impacted’ by property on which homeless encampments have appeared, which include as unhoused residents, many members of the Sacramento Homeless Union. 

The survey asked those surveyed questions like, “If you have children, staff members or customers do you feel it is safe around the property?” and “Do you think the subject property in its present condition has a negative impact on the neighborhood?” and “Has anyone threatened, intimidated or harassed you while at or near the encampment?” 

Since he began this campaign against the unhoused by way of the threat of criminal prosecution of the City for ‘maintaining a nuisance’ the Homeless Union has documented an increase in the number of physical attacks on homeless persons and encampments…(Ho) is placing members of the Homeless Union and the broader homeless community, at an increased risk of harm,” Prince told the State Bar in his complaint Wednesday.

“(A)s a direct result of his letters of June 30 and August 7, 2023, the City of Sacramento cut off what were ongoing discussions about safety during extreme heat, citing the D.A.’s letter as the reason why the City needs to intensify the clearing of homeless encampments,” added Prince.

The Sacramento Homeless Union attorney charged, “Whipping up antihomeless sentiment, quoting survey ‘resultsthat have not been corroborated and pressuring the City of Sacramento to intensify homeless sweeps, even if it means violating a federal court order all suggest violations of professional responsibility on Mr. Ho’s part.

“By encouraging the City of Sacramento to clear homeless encampments during the pendency of Judge Nunley’s instruction, specifically enjoining the City from doing so,” noted Prince, “District Attorney Ho has improperly interfered with an ongoing federal lawsuit and illegally importuned the City of Sacramento to disobey a federal court order.”

Citing California Rule of Professional Conduct 3.10 that states, “A lawyer shall not threaten to present criminal, administrative, or disciplinary charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute,” Prince insists to the State Bar in the complaint that DA Ho “has a direct interest in the case given the threat of a criminal prosecution and otherwise pressure the City to continue the clearing of homeless encampments.”

In August, in a letter to Ho, the union warned, “We believe that your conduct and that of the Office of Sacramento District Attorney under your direction, in importuning the City of Sacramento to violate a federal court order and, more broadly, your threats of criminal prosecution of the City, appropriation of funds and public resources to pursue the criminal investigation of the City.”

The union added that “your public solicitation of ordinary citizens to provide ‘evidence’ against unhoused residents of Sacramento and your less than truthful public pronouncements in service of your public campaign against the unhoused by way of your demands on the City, all raise substantial questions as to your honesty, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

And, in an August letter to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Prince said, “We wanted to make you aware of the situation described in the message as we believe Mr. Ho has dangerously overstepped his authority as a County District Attorney and is misusing his office to gain a political advantage by demanding that the City act in such a manner tantamount to willful disobedience by the City of Sacramento of a Temporary Restraining Order issued by District Judge Troy L. Nunley (Aug. 3).”

Prince characterized Ho’s actions to Bonta as “increasingly strident…rhetoric and threats coming from the Sacramento District Attorney to pressure the City of Sacramento to resume currently-enjoined enforcement of its anti-camping ordinances.”

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

About The Author

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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