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Sacramento Asks Court to Dismiss Local D.A.’s Lawsuit Over Homelessness Crisis

— October 18, 2023

While Sacramento has conceded that it is facing an unprecedented homelessness crisis, city attorneys say that D.A. Thien Ho lacks the authority to raise a complaint against the Golden State’s capital city.

Sacramento has asked a Superior Court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by District Attorney Thien Ho, who has accused the city of failing to adequately address an unprecedented homelessness crisis.

According to The Sacramento Bee, the city now claims that Ho exceeded his authority as a county-level prosecutor and has no evidence to support his allegations.

“The filing in this case is deeply flawed, and, from a legal perspective, is unsound from every angle,” City Attorney Susan Alcala Wood said in a statement. “It fails the most primary tests in terms of its legality and viability.”

“We believe the court will see this and correctly bring an end to a case that can’t hope to achieve anything beyond staggering expense to taxpayers and a drain on both City and court resources.”

As has reported before, Ho filed his own lawsuit against the city in September, saying that Sacramento has not done enough to halt the spread of homeless encampments throughout the Californian capital.

In his complaint, Ho noted that, while the local government permits overnight camping adjacent to some of its own properties, it clears sidewalks during business hours—a courtesy rarely extended in residential neighborhoods and commercial districts.

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.

While Sacramento has not objected to Ho’s claims of a burgeoning homelessness crisis, the city did say that the D.A. ignored “numerous, laudable” efforts by the city to find solutions.

“Sacramento County District Attorney Thien Ho’s complaint is as surprising as it is novel,” the city’s motion says. “But those are not admirable qualities when they lead to a waste of government and judicial resources.”

“This [motion] is necessary to stem further waste of those resources, because underlying the complaint’s novelty is its legal untenability.”

Sacramento insists, for instance, that it “neither caused nor assisted in causing the allegedly criminal acts that are the gravamen of the D.A.’s complaint,” and that the city is further entitled to immunity from Ho’s litigation.

“The homelessness crisis and its effects are not fit for judicial resolution through this lawsuit,” the motion claims. “This is practically and politically true.”

“It is also legally true that this lawsuit is inappropriate,” it adds. “The complaint is constitutional overreach. […] Besides the self-evident oxymoronic nature of the D.A. asserting private claims on behalf of the People, he has exceeded the powers granted to him by the state constitution and the California Legislature.”

Ho, though, says that the motion amounts to a “common and expected legal tactic” to delay litigation.

“Our office will be filing a response in court,” he said. “The Sacramento District Attorney’s Office remains steadfast in our mission to protect public safety and we will continue to do our part to ensure that the unhoused are not left forgotten on the streets and that all residents of Sacramento live in a safe and just community.”


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