Judge denies ACLU request, homeless lawsuit continues

Feb 14, 2017, 4:27 PM
homeless sweeps, ACLU...
Seattle protesters demonstrate in 2016 as crews conducted a homeless sweep in the infamous Jungle where various encampments were located. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

A federal judge has denied the ACLU’s request that Seattle stop homeless camp sweeps while its lawsuit against the city continues.

Sweeps of homeless encampments will continue as the case moves forward. The ACLU requested the judge place a restraining order on the city in order to halt its homeless camp sweeps. The order would have remained in place as its lawsuit against the city continued in court. But the judge ruled the plaintiffs did not adequately make their case for that restraining order.

Homeless voices of Seattle: From Murray’s Triangle to Clown Town

The judge noted, however, that despite not granting the restraining order, it is not a reflection on the worthiness of the case as a whole.

In its summary, the court said it “is not blind to the hardships faced by” homeless people, and “recognizes their constitutional property rights.”

The ACLU lawsuit came months after the organization attempted to move legislation it drafted through the city council.

ACLU vs. Seattle, WSDOT

The ACLU is suing the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation over the issue of homeless encampments, and the process of removing the camps from public lands. Specifically, it is alleged that the city has thrown away personal belongings of homeless individuals after sweeping through camps.

The ACLU is representing The Episcopal Diocese, a church that serves the local homeless community, and Real Change, a newspaper that focuses on homeless issues. It is also representing two homeless individuals who allege they lost personal items after the city threw them away.

In January, when the lawsuit was announced, the ACLU argued that the city needs to provide adequate notice or a meaningful way for people to reclaim their property if it is removed from a camp.

But Seattle has since begun its own process of developing regulations for handling private property from homeless camps. Those regulations are under consideration by the city council. They set up procedures and timelines for handling private property.

The proposal, for example, aims to set up a 60-day period of time that the city will store items from camps. Such items would include: bikes, radios, eyeglasses, prescription medication, photographs, jewelry, crutches, etc. Wood pallets or building materials would not be considered personal property that would be stored. Items considered hazardous will not be stored.

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Judge denies ACLU request, homeless lawsuit continues