San Francisco and UC Hastings to Talk Settlement in Lawsuit Over Tenderloin Conditions

Law.com, May 14, 2020

By Ross Todd


U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar on Thursday said that he would grant the parties' request to appoint U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley to oversee settlement talks in the lawsuit seeking to force the city to address homeless encampments and drug dealing in the neighborhood that's home to the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.


Lawyers for the city and county of San Francisco are hoping to reach a settlement with a coalition of residents and businesses in the Tenderloin led by the University of California, Hastings College of the Law who sued the city for allowing homeless encampments and drug dealing to overwhelm the neighborhood’s sidewalks. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California said during an initial case management conference in the case Thursday that he was going to grant the parties’ request to appoint U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley to oversee settlement talks. “She’s willing to do this and she’s quite enthusiastic about it,” said Tigar, in a videoconference hearing Thursday afternoon. “I see that as a real piece of good news,” added Tigar, who said his own schedule, which involves overseeing a case challenging prison conditions in California during the COVID-19 pandemic, has become hectic. Tigar said that although he normally doesn’t speak with judges he refers matters out to for settlement, he planned to be in contact with Corley “when the mood strikes me, because I’d sort of like to know what’s going on.” Tigar, however, also told Deputy City Attorney Ryan Stevens, representing the city, that the parties could ask to tell some things to Corley in confidence without worrying that she would share them with the opposing side or him.


The UC Hastings-led coalitions sued the city and county May 4 claiming that San Francisco officials had allowed the Tenderloin to become “a containment zone” for drug and homelessness issues, making the neighborhood “insufferable” and unsafe during the current public health crisis. “This is a matter of fundamental fairness; what is a citywide problem should not be allowed to weigh disproportionately on a low-income working-class neighborhood,” wrote the coalition’s lawyers at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger in San Francisco and Greenberg Gross in Los Angeles. “San Francisco should be prohibited from abandoning a single neighborhood, in an apparent effort to spare other neighborhoods the burdens that confront the city at-large,” they wrote.


During Thursday’s hearing, Walkup Melodia’s Michael Kelly said that he was grateful for Tigar’s “almost immediate response” of asking the city’s lawyers to make an appearance and get the case moving. Kelly noted that Thursday’s case management conference was pulled together on “a record timeline.” Kelly asked that Tigar hold weekly meetings initially to keep tabs on the parties’ progress. Tigar, for his part, asked the city and the plaintiffs to file weekly case management statements updating him. He also told the parties to let him know if there were “public health- or urban planning-type” articles they wanted him to read presenting possible resolutions. “I would like to be sort of an information monster about this case,” Tigar said. Tigar also said that he would like to drive around the Tenderloin to check out conditions himself. Tigar said that he wouldn’t be taking pictures or entering anything into the record that would turn that case “into a dog and pony show.” “Thanks for bringing me this interesting case,” Tigar said. “I hope you’re able to work things out. If not, don’t worry,” he told the lawyers. “That’s how we all make a living.”

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