Lavan v. City of Los Angeles

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 09-05-2012
  • Case #: 11-56253
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wardlaw for the Court; Circuit Judge Reinhardt; Dissent by Circuit Judge Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

The Fourth Amendment does not require a party have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" in their property to protect that property from governmental seizure.

Appellees consist of a group of homeless individuals who live in a section of the City of Los Angeles (“City”) referred to as “Skid Row.” The City seized and destroyed certain personal property appellees had temporarily left unattended on city sidewalks. Appellees claimed seizure and destruction of their “unabandoned property” violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and sued the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The City undisputedly seized and destroyed this property while enforcing a municipal code which prohibits “personal property” from being left “upon any parkway or sidewalk.” Appellees filed, and the district court granted, a temporary restraining order which prevented the city from seizing “unabandoned property” in Skid Row, and required any seized property be maintained by the city for 90 days before its destruction. The City claimed on this appeal that appellees had “no legitimate expectation of privacy in property left on a public sidewalk [in violation of the municipal code],” and that therefore appellees had no Fourth Amendment protection regarding the seizure of this property. The Court cited the United States Supreme Court in Jacobsen, Soldal, and Jones, and rejected the City’s “invitation to impose this unprecedented limit [requiring an expectation of privacy in order to protect personal property from seizure] on the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees.” The Court found that the district court erred when it based its holding on appellees “reasonable expectation of privacy,” but found this error harmless as the district court “properly balanced” the competing interests of the appellees, and the City, regarding this property and its seizure. The Court found the appellees had a protected Fourteenth Amendment property right in their personal property, and held the city “failed utterly to provide meaningful [due process] […] after it seized and destroyed property belonging to Skid Row’s homeless population.” APPEAL DENIED.

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