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Los Angeles Will Pay Nearly $1 Million In Settlements For Homeless Rights Lawsuits

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Homeless encampment (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, the L.A. City Council approved nearly $950,000 in settlement fees and attorney costs for a pair of lawsuits charging that the city violated the civil rights of homeless individuals, as the L.A. Times reports.

Back in April, a federal judge ruled that the city of L.A. needed to overhaul how it impounds the personal property of homeless people, even if said property is sitting on public sidewalks. In that case, a coalition of homeless people sued the city of Los Angeles, claiming that L.A. was endangering the lives of the homeless by seizing their belongings without allowing adequate time for people to separate out their medication and medical supplies. The judge's ruling orders the city to give more thorough notice before impounding property, and to make it possible for people to retrieve their seized property in a timely and efficient manner, neither of which the city allegedly did before the court case. Of the $950,000 settlement approved yesterday, $822,000 was awarded with regards to that federal suit.

The second case stemmed from an arrest made five years ago during a protest of monthly Skid Row walks conducted by city and business leaders, according to the Daily Breeze. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the LAPD mistakenly arrested L.A. Community Action Network organizer Pete White when he protested the walkthrough. The city paid approximately $125,000 in legal fees for that case.

Coincidentally, both of these cases were argued by the same attorney. Carol Sobel, a Santa Monica based civil rights attorney, has been one of the most ardent legal advocates of homeless rights in Los Angeles throughout the past few years. Sobel was also instrumental to reversing a municipal ban on people living in cars.

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Back in 2014, a federal judge ruled that L.A. could not enforce a ban against vehicular habitation. Sobel successfully argued that the city's provision was so ambiguously worded that it could have applied to somebody, for example, who was eating an In-N-Out burger in a restaurant parking lot.