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City may appeal verdict in homeless case

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The city may appeal a verdict from a federal jury that partially faulted the city for the way it has managed homeless people’s belongings, according to Senior Deputy City Attorney Chance Trimm.

The jury’s decision in Lehr v. City of Sacramento was released Tuesday at Sacramento Federal Court. The trial, which involved homeless people’s constitutional rights and personal belongings, began May 9. The jury did not fault the city on four of six claims, Trimm said. However, in the mixed decision, the jury found that the city has seized and stored homeless people’s possessions without sufficiently informing them on how to get those items back.

The booking and handling of homeless people’s belongings by the city was not carried out through suitable policies, the jury also decided.

Plaintiffs Attorney Mark Merin claimed in an April 1 court document that the police have taken away and thrown out homeless people’s belongings such as tents, bedding, clothing and medication. Photos and an urn with ashes have also been taken by police, he claimed in the document.

Police officers take items from the homeless when they enforce the city’s ban on overnight camping, he further claimed.

Referring to an appeal, Trimm said, “It is being considered.”

If the city decides to appeal, it will file its case with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, he said.

The jury found that the city does not approach the property of homeless and non-homeless people in different manners, Trimm said.

Trimm and Merin have radically different views of the outcome of the class-action case.

Merin said Wednesday that his clients won the case and that the jury found there were “constitutional violations” of his clients’ rights.

As a result of the decision, the homeless people who lost their property are entitled to compensation that includes payments for emotional distress, Merin said.

He said the amount of compensation homeless people will receive won’t be clear until he and the city either reach an agreement or go to trial, he said.

The verdict had not been posted online by press time.

Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. 

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