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Sacramento County Superior Court Dismisses DA’s Homelessness Lawsuit Against California Capital

— May 7, 2024

“The community has seen and felt the difference,” Sacramento County District Attorney Thein Ho said. “We intend to amend the complaint and proceed forward. We will not give up on the City of Sacramento.”

A California judge has determined that Sacramento County District Attorney Thein Ho cannot continue litigating claims intended to force the state’s capital city into taking action against widespread homelessness.

As has reported before, Ho filed his initial claim against Sacramento in September of last year. In his complaint, Ho said that the city’s failure to mitigate its problems with homeless communities had resulted in the pollution of waterways and presented risks to public health.

Sacramento officials, though, had fought to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that court lacks the requisite authority to interfere with legislative action taken at either the state or the local level.

And, on Monday, Sacramento Superior Court Judge H. Talley issued a ruling that largely favored the city’s position.

“The Court agrees that the separation of powers doctrine bars all of the People’s claims as presently alleged,” Talley wrote.

Although Talley did state that Sacramento failed to prove that it is not liable for permitting homeless residents to pollute creeks and streams, she emphasized that Ho’s lawsuit—”based entirely on the City’s alleged failure to enforce its ordinances against the unhoused population and its failure to adopt new policies to address the unhoused population and their encampments”—provides no solution outside of legislative reform.

Several tents packed closely together under an overhanging concrete structure.
Homeless camp under an I-580 overpass in California. Photo by Grendelkhan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 4.0, image has been cropped.

“The Court finds the People’s argument is not persuasive,” Talley wrote.

Sacramento City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood has since issued a statement criticizing Ho’s lawsuit, saying that her county-level counterpart should have worked with the city instead of filing a politically-motivated complaint.

“It has been clear from day one that the DA’s case was flawed from a legal perspective, and we are pleased the Court has affirmed this by largely rejecting his arguments in its final ruling,” Wood said on Monday. “While the DA may attempt to amend his complaint, the City is imploring him to do the right thing and bring this case to an end. The DA’s efforts have resulted in nothing more than a waste of taxpayer money and a drain on City, County and Court resources.”

“Playing politics with homelessness helps no one. Right now, both the City and the County of Sacramento need to be focused on providing outreach and support to unsheltered residents,” Wood said. “It is time for the DA to finally abandon this exercise and start contributing to the ongoing work to create meaningful and lasting solutions to the homelessness crisis.”

However, Ho says that his lawsuit has already made a difference—and that, in the seven months since his claim was filed, the city “has done more enforcement and compliance … than they have in the done in the last seven years.”

“The community has seen and felt the difference,” he said. “We intend to amend the complaint and proceed forward. We will not give up on the City of Sacramento.”


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