An Appeals Court Has Halted a Judge’s Order on L.A. Homelessness—For Now

Judge David O. Carter’s order calling for the housing of Skid Row’s homeless has hit a small speed bump

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily halted a federal judge’s system-shaking injunction on homeless municipal services in Los Angeles.

In an order issued Thursday morning, a three-judge panel said the April 20 injunction from U.S. Judge David O. Carter can’t take effect before June 15. The judges said an upcoming hearing in the case “may impact whether a stay pending appeal is necessary or justified,” so they want to what happens

Carter scheduled the May 27 hearing in Los Angeles to hear testimony about his findings regarding decades of systemic racism, as well as the new city budget’s nearly $1 billion for homelessness and city properties that could be used for housing and shelters. Attorneys are to brief the 9th Circuit on June 3 regarding how the hearing may have changed the legal issues being appealed.

Carter’s 110-page order calls for Los Angeles to offer housing to everyone on Skid Row by October, with staggered deadlines for women, men, and families. It also requires spending audits and reports on finances and property, but Carter backed off on a requirement that the city place $1 billion in escrow and hold off on city land sales or transfers pending a city property analysis.

Those issues will be addressed at the May 27 hearing.

judge david o. carter
In February 2018, Judge David O. Carter addresses reporters and both sides of a lawsuit regarding homelessness in Orange County

Jeff Gritchen/OC Register via Getty Images

In filings with the 9th Circuit, lawyers for Los Angeles County called the hearing an attempt “to backfill the record.” They’re accusing Carter of overstepping his authority and interfering in government policy decisions. But Carter’s order makes a lengthy case for why that’s justified. It describes a broad history of systemic racism that the judge concluded warrants extraordinary court action to remedy constitutional rights violations.

Both the city and county are appealing the order, as is the Los Angeles Community Action Network. LACAN didn’t request a stay, but the 9th Circuit today invited the group to weigh in on June 3.

Today’s stay comes two days after Carter rejected the county’s bid to dismiss itself from the case. His 11-page ruling flatly rejected the county’s arguments and reiterated the injunction’s broad findings on racism.

“The County’s discriminatory conduct has threatened the family integrity of the Black unhoused,” Carter wrote. “A disproportionate number of Black unhoused families directly stems from decades of systemic racism intended to segregate and disenfranchise the Black community.”

It’s unclear if the county will appeal Carter’s rejection of the dismissal bid; outside counsel Louis “Skip” Miller said he was disappointed in Carter’s decision but focused on the appeal of the injunction.

The 9th judges who issued today’s stay order are M. Margaret McKeown, Marsha Berzon, and Danielle J. Hunsaker.

McKeown and Berzon are bench veterans nominated by President Bill Clinton; Hunsaker took the bench in 2019 after being nominated by President Donald Trump.

Meghann M. Cuniff is a freelance journalist focused on legal affairs. Shes on Twitter @meghanncuniff.

RELATED: ‘A Legacy of Racism’: Judge Issues Bold Order to House Skid Row’s Homeless

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