Activists Ask L.A. City to Fight Lawsuit on Vehicle Impound Policy

By Bill Hetherman, City News Service

An immigrants-rights organization and a residents’ group want to help the city of Los Angeles fight off a lawsuit by the government watchdog group Judicial Watch challenging the LAPD’s policy liberalizing procedures for impounding cars of unlicensed drivers.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles and LA Voice, represented by attorneys for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, filed papers July 18 in Los Angeles Superior Court asking a judge to allow them to intervene and help the city defend the impound policy in court. A hearing is scheduled Sept. 25 before Judge Terry Green.

The suit filed May 16 by the Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch was the third suit filed in as many months challenging the policy. Plaintiff Harold Sturgeon of Los Angeles wants a judge to find that the department’s impound policy is an unlawful use of taxpayer money specifically “to help unlicensed illegal aliens.”

But according to the CHIRLA/LA Voice court papers, the impact on immigrants would be disproportionate.

Law enforcement agencies have been criticized for using impounds to generate money and for targeting Latinos assuming they are less likely to be licensed, the CHIRLA/LA Voice court papers state. Some CHIRLA members themselves have been affected, their court papers state.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League filed another lawsuit challenging the policy in April.

A third suit filed by a group of civil rights attorneys challenges the policy on different grounds, arguing it is too harsh because it prevents the owners of vehicles from getting their cars back before 30 days when another driver who is not the owner was at fault for the violation and impound.

The city has filed a separate motion to dismiss Sturgeon’s lawsuit and it is scheduled to be heard on Nov. 9. Lawyers for the city say that contrary to Sturgeon’s claims, the impound policy does not violate the state Constitution or conflict with the state Vehicle Code.

The city’s attorneys also say the policy does not allow the release of a vehicle to an undocumented immigrant who is either unlicensed or ineligible to be licensed for failure to provide proof of lawful presence in the U.S.

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July 26, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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