Weekend Open Thread: Now You Can Legally Live In Your Car (For Now)

Living in a car

The only thing worse than a legal decision saying that yes, you can live in your parked car if you have to, would be a legal decision saying that if you try to do it you can be arrested. So be happy about this, relatively.

It’s sad that this is “progress,” but it is.  Click that link to find an LA Times story with a link to a PDF with the federal court opinion on whether people can live in their cars.  Sadly, there’s a decent chance that it will be overturned on further appeal.  And yes, it means that people who want beautiful lives free of contact with the realities of financial collapse will have a harder time doing so — and, as with most such issues, the question is what alternative exists other than people simply agreeing to die quietly somewhere.  (This seems to be the issue of the next decade or so.)

A federal appeals court says a Los Angeles law that bars people from living in parked vehicles is unconstitutional.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the 1983 law was vaguely written and discriminates against homeless and poor people. The three-judge panel ruled the law “opens the door to discriminatory enforcement against the homeless and the  poor.”

The complaint stemmed from the 2010 arrests of Steve Jacob-Elstein, Chris Taylor, Patricia Warivonchik, William Cagle, who were all detained in separate encounters. The action was part of a Los Angeles Police Department effort to reduce the number of homeless people sleeping in cars in the gentrifying beachside neighborhood. 

“The court struck down the law,” said attorney Carol Sobel who brought the case on behalf of the four detainees. “I think the message from the court to the city is ‘You need to take a different approach. We’re not going to let you put people in jail because they don’t have a place to sleep.'”

This happened in Venice, but just as easily could have happened in OC.   It was written by Judge Harry Pregerson, one of the amazing liberal lions of the Ninth Circuit, joined by Judges Marsha Berson (a younger liberal lion) and Morgan Christen, who came to the court after my time as a clerk.  Pregerson, like Stephen Reinhardt and my late lamented former Judge Betty Fletcher, is one of the judges that the conservative Supreme Court of the past 23 years has most loved to overturn, so don’t be surprised to see both a possible en banc hearing and a possible successful appeal to the Supremes.

This is one of those cases where the “radical left” position — one that I imagine might actually be shared by some on the radical right, as well as populists and libertarians — seems like a commonsense and moderate position, much like the idea that you can’t toss people in jail for relieving themselves in public if they have no access to restroom facilities.  It’s a sad day when radicals have to do the work of commonsense moderates.

This is your Weekend Open Thread; talk about that, or anything else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of decorum and discretion.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)