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Lawsuit challenges curfews imposed by gang injunctions

In their ongoing battle against the city's entrenched gangs, prosecutors and the Los Angeles Police Department have relied increasingly in recent years on a favorite bureaucratic weapon: Court-ordered injunctions.

The injunctions aim to severely curtail gang activity by, among other things, prohibiting gang members from socializing with each other, carrying weapons and wearing certain clothing inside "safe zones" that typically encompass neighborhoods where the gangs are active. Those who don't comply can be arrested and charged.

A federal lawsuit filed earlier this month in Los Angeles, however, has taken aim at the nighttime curfews included in 21 of the 50 injunctions in effect within the city. The terms of the curfews, which prohibit going outside after 10 p.m., are so broad and vague as to violate a person's constitutional rights, said Olu Orange, the attorney behind the lawsuit.

The city, Orange said, has willfully ignored an appellate court ruling finding that similarly worded gang curfews violated people's due process rights. In that ruling, the California Supreme Court found that an injunction against an Oxnard gang did not adequately define what it meant for someone included in the injunction to be "outside" during the curfew hours.

The wording was "so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning," the court found.

The city's other gang injunctions also impose curfews but use wording that is more specific and less restrictive, Orange said.

A spokesperson for the city attorney's office could not be reached for comment.

The latest lawsuit stems from the arrest of Christian Rodriguez, a teenage boy who lives in the Mar Vista Gardens housing project –- a stronghold of the Culver City Boys gang.

Rodriguez is not a gang member, his attorney said, but was placed under the injunction because of an older brother's ties to the gang. LAPD anti-gang officers arrested Rodriguez late one night in June 2009 when they found him with friends at the housing project's handball courts. He was charged with violating curfew.

The criminal charges against Rodriguez were dropped, but Orange said a broader challenge to the curfews is necessary. Orange said he will try to have the case designated as a class action, which would allow anyone ever arrested for a curfew violation under the 21 gang injunctions to join the lawsuit. Beyond seeking a change to the wording of curfew clauses, Orange said he planned to argue that any person arrested for a curfew violation was entitled to compensation for having his or her constitutional rights violated.

The lawsuit is the latest challenge to gang injunctions. They also have come under fire by critics who say there is not an adequate process by which people can petition to have their names removed from injunction lists.

-- Joel Rubin


Comments () | Archives (5)

Who are these wacky liberal pinko lawyers that stand up for the rights of gang bangers?

Where is their moral compass? To stand by and for vicious animals who prey on the weak and vulnerable is despicable.

Why not channel their misguided energy to help victims instead of helping perps??

Maybe it's some sort of deranged gene in their DNA, kinda like the women who marry dangerous predators locked up in prison for life.....so sick!

Oh great! A class action suit where dirtbag gang members can collect money? What a great way to spend money we don't have.

@u know: It is the moral duty of "wacky liberal pinkos" to call into enforcement all of our rights.

Yes, it is unsavory to think that scumbag criminals might be able to skirt deserved punishment via a simple legal loophole, but if our criminals are being prosecuted by the letter of the law, then they must be *protected* by the letter of the law. Otherwise, the letter of the law becomes meaningless and arbitrary.

While it's fun to go all Archie Bunker on the pinkos, it is gravely myopic to suggest that law-abiding citizens are entitled to cut corners to punish corner-cutting criminals. If the law-abiding are allowed to skirt the law, then they are no better than the criminals they eschew. I hope that this concept someday makes a little sense to you.


so then you are one of those who believe that lawyers should try and find a "loophole" to free evil vicious child molestors, because they "need to be protected"

i on the other hand believe it is the "moral duty" of human beings to protect our society against those who prey on others


@U Know: You are attempting to make an emotional (as opposed to a rational) argument by bringing up child molesters. But, since the damage is done, I will answer your hypothetical.

1) I didn't suggest that lawyers should look for loopholes to free convicted criminals. You misinterpreted what I said, hyper-fixated on the word "loophole", and created in your mind an erroneous understanding of what I actually said. Fortunately for you, I will express the exact same idea a second time in this posting, with the hope that hearing it again will make a difference. Sometimes when you remove emotion from arguments, ideas can shine through.

2) Consider this scenario: A child molester commits a crime against a child. A cop has a hunch that the crime was committed, all of the fingers point to the molester, but there is no evidence to link the molester to the crime. So the cop plants evidence in the scumbag's house, which now secures a conviction. Bing-bang-boom, the scumbag is now in prison. You and I, as flies on the wall, know that a crime was committed. But is it justice for that cop to have planted the evidence? Isn't that a violation of the scumbag's privacy and his right to a fair trial? Moreover, isn't planting evidence a crime? Shouldn't we care about something like that? How many times has this hypothetical cop done this?

Our society doesn't like rogue cops who plant evidence, because it taints justice. Similarly, we can't just make up rules to curtail crime if they suppress other people's human or constitutional rights. "Sorry, it's illegal to wear blue on this street, Grandma Johnson. We're taking you in." How can you tell who a gangmember is? How many non-gangmembers have been arrested for violating these curfew laws?

What I said in my first response to you remains; The law-abiding have to follow the rules, even at great personal discomfort, otherwise they are no better than the criminals they convict. To use your own argument, when you advocate on behalf of corruption, you are corrupt yourself. Or when you advocate on behalf of apathy, or mob rule, or looking the other way, or...

Stings, don't it?


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