Sanchez v. California Department of Transportation
In December 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, East Bay Community Law Center, and the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP (WilmerHale) filed suit against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for violating the constitutional rights of homeless people by confiscating and destroying their property in ongoing sweeps.
The class-action suit seeks a permanent injunction to stop this illegal practice throughout California. On multiple occasions, Caltrans has failed to give proper notice before raiding encampments—refusing plaintiffs an opportunity to move their belongings before destroying them in trash compactors. These practices violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable seizure of property, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections against the deprivation of property without due process of law.
Plaintiffs in Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley have lost cherished and necessary items—including family heirlooms, irreplaceable photographs of loved ones, tents and sleeping bags, warm weather clothing, mechanics’ tools, food, camp stoves, bicycles, and personal documents.
In a series of rulings in 2017 and 2018, the court rejected the Defendants’ motions to dismiss the case or for a judgment in their favor. In June 2019, the court granted our motion to certify a class consisting of all homeless persons whose personal belongings were unreasonably taken from them by Caltrans in Berkeley, Oakland or Emeryville since December 13, 2014.
The case is set for trial in May 2020.
Client Stories: Illegal Caltrans Sweeps of Homeless Encampments (Dec. 13, 2016)