Judge doesn’t extend ban on sweeping homeless camps
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A federal judge on Wednesday opted not to extend a ban that prevents Sacramento from relocating homeless encampments. The city can now resume its sweeps on Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Troy Nunley cited concerns about high temperatures when he issued the first two-week prohibition on Aug. 3. He extended it mid-month, setting Aug. 31 as the end date.
But the judge denied a request for an additional extension through the third week of September by Sacramento Homeless Union attorney Anthony Prince, who said expected temperatures would at that point remain under 90 degrees through the end of the year.
“Plaintiffs' decision to file their motion a day before the expiration of the injunction is not well taken,” Nunley wrote. “Based on plaintiffs' delay and the cooler forecast ahead, the court will not extend the injunction until defendants have an opportunity to respond.”
The city of Sacramento has until Sept. 6 to respond, followed by a Sept. 11 deadline for the plaintiff organization to reply.
A spokesman for the mayor said he couldn’t comment about ongoing litigation.
Nunley in summer 2022 made a similar ruling that stopped homeless encampment sweeps. Both orders stem from a Sacramento Homeless Union lawsuit filed in 2022. It’s suing the city and county for endangering unhoused people by displacing them from shady areas during a 2021 heat wave.
The Sacramento area has seen scorching temperatures this month, with highs regularly climbing to triple digits. However, highs are forecast to nosedive starting Friday, with temperatures getting to only 76 degrees that day and 78 on Saturday. They’re not expected to reach the low 90s again until Monday.
Under the judge's order the city has been allowed some leeway: It can still remove garbage and debris from unhoused encampments and keep clear four feet of sidewalk space.
The judge also ruled the city must let a representative of the homeless union and others tour Miller Park, a “safeground” encampment established by the city in 2021. The union has argued that temperatures have neared 120 degrees in tents on park asphalt and that people have gone for hours with no food or water.
The city was permitted to enforce its critical infrastructure ordinance, but only on encampments within 500 feet of a school. The ordinance prohibits camps on or near certain areas.
Sacramento has appealed Nunley’s mid-month extension of the ban to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however the appeals court had made no decision by Wednesday. The ban stops end-of-day Thursday.
“We are disappointed that the court, for now, has decided against extending the injunction prohibiting the City from clearing encampments during extreme temperatures,” wrote Prince, the attorney for the Sacramento Homeless Union, in an email.
“The union is doing the best it can under difficult circumstances with very limited legal resources, and we did wait to file in order to get the most current forecast.”
He added: “In any event, the case is not over and we remain hopeful that Judge Nunley will reinstate the injunction when the next extreme heat wave occurs. Accordingly, the union will continue to document harm caused by the sweeps, which the city is still doing in violation of the injunction as they did when they swept City Hall Plaza earlier this month.”
Prince has claimed the city violated the injunction prohibiting it from removing encampments on Aug. 4 and 7.
The city said ineffective communication with a contractor and its employees led to an oversight, which has since been corrected.
Prince asked for the judge to find the city in contempt for violating the injunction. No ruling has been made on that issue.