PASADENA, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge lacked standing to rule against state-court injunctions that Los Angeles uses to arrest gang members, the city told the 9th Circuit.
Christian Rodriguez and Alberto Cazarez are the lead plaintiffs in the federal class action alleging that Los Angeles violates due-process rights by serving injunctions against suspected members of the Culver City Boys gang.
In 2007, the California Court of Appeal invalidated one of the injunctions because it found its curfew provisions impermissibly vague.
Rodriguez and Cazarez said they needed an injunction, and U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee agreed earlier this year that they would likely succeed in showing that the curfew violates their due process rights and could cause irreparable harm.
While the Los Angeles Police Department had "adopted a policy of non-enforcement of the curfew provisions," people still believed, absent notice, that police were enforcing the injunctions, Gee found.
"Under these circumstances, class members who have been served with the challenged injunctions are likely to be discouraged during certain hours from participating in lawful activities as mundane as carrying groceries from their car or as hallowed in a free society as speaking to relatives or friends on the porch outside of their home," Gee wrote in an amended 10-page order.
On appeal, Los Angeles says that Gee's order against the 26 state court gang injunctions interferes with ongoing proceedings in state court.
"If allowed to stand, the court's injunction creates the risk of routine collateral attacks on state court and public nuisance injunctions, and gang injunctions," Gary Rowe of Los Angeles firm Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland told the 9th Circuit panel on Monday.
Judge Margaret McKeown was not persuaded. She asked Rowe why people misidentified as gang members were restricted to seeking a remedy in state court.
"If I'm not a gang member presumably I shouldn't be covered by one of these 26 orders, right," McKeown asked.
"Yes, that's correct," Rowe replied.
"But if you serve me with that, why can't I go to federal court and say: 'Look, not only was I not a party but it says you have to be gang member - I'm not a gang member,'" McKeown inquired.
"There's a perfectly appropriate process in state court by which you can opt out, so the need for federal intervention is not necessary," Rowe said.
McKeown remained unconvinced, pressing the attorney on why there could not be "parallel proceedings."
"Administering a gang injunction is very complicated," Rowe said. "It would be mischievous to allow parallel proceedings, given the state's strong interest."
Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick attorney Anne Richardson urged the court to affirm. She argued that the class was not asking to "monitor the state court proceedings in anyway" and only wanted the city to provide notice.
"All we're trying to do is ask the city to let people know that they are no longer going to enforce these provisions," Richardson said.
Richardson said the story would be different if state court proceedings had been enjoined or if the injunction was interrupting a trial. Those are cases where "courts have found abstention to be appropriate because there is an interference, there is an insult," the attorney said.
"But here, there is no insult," Richardson added. "We just want to enforce the law that's already been articulated by the state courts."
Judge Ronald Gould and Judge Jay Bybee joined McKeown on the panel.
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