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City Seeks to Dismiss Suit Over Homeless

Relying on law books borrowed through the local library and due diligence, Leonard Porto is challenging the city’s policies towards homeless people and taking it to the federal level.

Attorneys for the city of Laguna Beach rejected discrimination allegations against homeless individuals outlined in a federal lawsuit filed by Leonard Porto, a local homeless man and self-taught law student filing on his own behalf.

In a filing on May 1, City Attorney Phil Kohn asked the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana to dismiss the complaint.  The request will be heard by federal District Judge David O. Carter, a local resident, on June 4.

Porto’s civil rights lawsuit was filed against the city and two officials for cruel and unusual treatment as well as for discriminating against homeless individuals.  The suit alleges current city policies violate the terms of a 2009 settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU sued the city, challenging its “no sleeping” ordinance as unconstitutional harassment of homeless people and obtained a three-year settlement that barred such citations. Following the settlement, the city established a year-round shelter for overnight stays.

Kohn based his request for dismissal on several contentions, including that Porto cannot allege claims or seek relief on behalf of others nor state a claim for an alleged violation of city’s agreement with the ACLU, known as the Sipprelle settlement for the named plaintiff.

Porto’s suit asks for an unspecified amount for damages and the cessation of violations covered by the ACLU settlement, specifically the ticketing of homeless people for sleeping in public places, for an additional three years.

Kohn requested a legally required conference with Porto on April 25 to discuss differences as well as Porto’s intent to file a temporary restraining order “from citing and harassing homeless people.” Porto declined, saying that he offered a resolution by asking the city to quit harassing and citing homeless people sleeping in public that he claims Kohn did not address.

“A current and serious situation requiring time priority also does not allow me to meet you for a hot air session that you get paid for,” Porto replied.  Porto said his father in Victorville had collapsed in his arms that week and later required a pacemaker implant at St. Mary’s Hospital.  No meeting options were offered to Porto, according to reports filed with the court.

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