A federal appeals court has rejected Los Angeles County’s bid to compel a judge to sign off on a settlement agreement with a coalition of downtown business owners and residents who say local government has not done enough to help remedy the homelessness crisis — setting the stage for a November trial, according to papers obtained Tuesday.
In its March 2020 lawsuit, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights alleged that inaction by the city and county of Los Angeles has created a dangerous environment in the Skid Row area and beyond.
The plaintiffs settled with the city last June in an agreement approved by U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is overseeing the case.
In April, Carter — for the second time in five months — rejected the county’s settlement offer, denying the county and the alliance’s joint stipulation to dismiss the case, saying he needed more “oversight and enforcement powers.”
The county then attempted to stay proceedings while it prepared to appeal Carter’s denial to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but Carter also denied that effort.
In its petition to the Ninth Circuit, filed in May, the county asked for a stay in proceedings and an order to compel Carter to vacate his April order, enforce the settlement agreement and dismiss the case.
The county argued in the petition that Carter’s “rulings and the court’s conduct are unprecedented. They are also clearly erroneous and exceed the bounds” of the district court’s authority.
In an order issued Friday, the appeals court denied the county’s request for a “writ of mandamus” requiring Carter to grant its settlement agreement and permanently dismiss the case.
According to the appellate court’s order, the county “has not demonstrated a clear and indisputable right to the extraordinary remedy of a writ of mandamus directing the district court to dismiss the action with prejudice.”
The request for a stay in the proceedings was also denied.
Mira Hashmall, an outside attorney representing L.A. County in the lawsuit, said the county is “understandably disappointed” by the 9th Circuit’s ruling on the appeal.
Despite the ruling, she said, the county “is prepared to continue litigating this case in court even as it makes combating homelessness its top priority.”
Hashmall said previously that the county pledged $1.1 billion in additional public funds and resources to address and prevent homelessness during the three years of litigation. The revised settlement offer that Carter rejected would have provided an extra 700 new mental health and substance use disorder beds, bringing the total number of these types of beds to 1,000.
Both the county and the L.A. Alliance told Carter at the April 20 hearing that they were satisfied with the terms of the agreement and believed that while it wouldn’t be enough to fix the homelessness crisis, it should be enough to resolve the lawsuit.
But Carter balked at the number of mental health beds that would be created by the agreement and said greater accountability and court oversight were needed.
A Nov. 6 trial date has been tentatively scheduled in Los Angeles federal court.