OAKLAND — Eleven homeless people in Eureka cannot be evicted from a long-established homeless encampment on Monday unless the city complies with yet-to-be-determined conditions for their alternative shelter, a federal judge ruled from the bench this afternoon.
The 11 sued Eureka in Federal Court on Monday, asking for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the city from evicting nearly 150 homeless residents of a camp in the Palco Marsh. They claim the eviction would violate their due process and Eighth Amendment constitutional rights, among others.
Since the issue had a ticking clock, a hearing of arguments before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, a George W. Bush appointee, was scheduled to occur just days after the lawsuit's filing – leaving the parties' attorneys with much less time than usual to prepare their arguments.
During Friday afternoon's arguments in Oakland, Eureka City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson told the judge that postponing the eviction would derail several important city projects, including the contract for demolition of a building near the camp and the planned construction of a citywide hiking trail.
Shelley Mack, who represented the plaintiffs at the hearing, contended the city had not adequately represented to the encampment residents that it would properly provide for the storage of their personal property or that they would be relocated to another form of shelter.
After exiting the courtroom to deliberate, White returned to say he would grant the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order – but only as applied to the 11 plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, not to the whole PalCo Marsh camp.
"I deal with what's before me," White said. "I have 11 litigants. I can only give them the protection they are entitled to."
White added that Eureka could evict those 11 residents only if the city met conditions for their alternative shelter set forth in a proposed order, which he ordered the attorneys to work together to prepare by 5 p.m. Saturday.
"I don't want any game playing," the judge told Day-Wilson. "This has to be done in good faith."
He added that his order would incentivize the city to provide for the 11 plaintiffs because otherwise, under his order, city officials would have to evict all of the camp's residents except the plaintiffs – which he said he suspected would be "somewhat chaotic."
White said he would issue a written order by Monday morning, when the eviction is scheduled to take place.