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Monday, February 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Day Laborer Advocates|Win Attorney’s Fees

(CN) - An advocacy group for day laborers in Lake Forest, Calif., is entitled to attorney's fees for successfully challenging the city's alleged harassment of day laborers, the 9th Circuit ruled.

La Asociación de Trabajadores de Lake Forest (ATLF) and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) sued in March 2007 after police allegedly "ran all the day laborers looking for work off the public sidewalks," according to a city ordinance.

Although the city repealed the ordinance the next month, day laborers said police continued to harass them and force them off public sidewalks.

As the case headed to trial, the plaintiff advocacy groups agreed to dismiss their claims against all defendants except four law enforcement officials. At a pretrial conference, the officials raised the issue of standing, and a federal judge dismissed NDLON from the case for lack of standing.

The remaining parties reached a settlement later that day.

ATLF later appealed the district court's denial of attorney's fees, and NDLON appealed its dismissal for lack of standing.

The three-judge panel in Pasadena upheld the standing decision, saying NDLON "failed to ... assert any factual allegations regarding organization standing."

Although the advocacy group was allegedly forced to spend time and money defending ATLF from the now-repealed Lake Forest ordinance, even though ATLF is not one of its member organizations, NDLON never directly made that claim in the lawsuit, the 9th Circuit ruled.

But the federal appeals court reversed the denial of attorney's fees to the ATLF, saying the group was a "prevailing party" based on the favorable settlement.

The group "received relief in the form of a judicially enforceable agreement requiring (the defendants) to adhere to policies respecting day laborers and their First Amendment rights, relief ATLF sought in its complaint," U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley wrote for the 9th Circuit panel.

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