tent tarp sky street blue
A longstanding encampment on the Mission/SOMA border. Photo by Griffin Jones, June, 2023.

The long-awaited trial in the lawsuit filed by homeless San Franciscans against the city will have to wait until at least this summer to begin, per a ruling today by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu. 

“Defendants’ motion to stay is granted in part. The case is stayed until 30 days after the Supreme Court issues an opinion in Johnson,” her decision reads. 

That means the preliminary injunction that restricts the sweeping of homeless encampments — unless a viable housing or shelter space is offered — will also remain active until after the trial. 

As part of the ruling, Ryu also requested today that the city continue to provide disclosures related to compliance with the injunction “as previously ordered” to mitigate “some of the harm” to plaintiffs. 

“We appreciate that the District Court’s decision spares the City from wasting public resources litigating this case, when the entire legal landscape may soon change,” said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu in a press release today. 

Nisha Kashyap, an attorney representing the plaintiffs from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, said, “To get these ongoing disclosures is critical, because we have previously identified numerous examples of the city violating the injunction.”

The order also acknowledged that some of the plaintiffs’ claims will be unaffected by the Supreme Court’s ruling, Kashyap added, including those regarding “San Francisco’s confiscation and destruction of unhoused people’s property, the city’s failure to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, and whether the manner in which encampments are cleared unlawfully endangers people’s lives.”

A pending ruling by the Supreme Court on the Oregon case, Johnson v. Grants Pass, is expected at the end of June. The high court could potentially overturn a September 2022 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which barred cities from sweeping homeless encampments if the local government doesn’t have enough shelter space to offer. The case formed Ryu’s basis to grant the preliminary injunction. 

A group of people on a video conference.
A Feb. 8 Zoom hearing.

In a Feb. 8 Zoom hearing, Ryu said she had received two “completely opposite views” from the plaintiffs and the defendants. 

The city said, depending on the Supreme Court ruling, “lots of discoveries could be rendered obsolete” and “completely irrelevant,” especially those discoveries around shelter offers, shelter capacity, enforcement policies and SFPD training, according to Ryu. 

“I think that the Ninth Circuit briefing would impact the application of an injunction,” said Deputy City Attorney John George. 

“We disagree with the defendants’ characterization that any ruling from the Supreme Court will potentially greatly narrow the issues in this case,” said Kashyap during the hearing.

It’s a “significant concern,” she said, when “we think about the harm to plaintiffs resulting from bringing this case to a grinding halt until at least July, and then possibly delaying further the resolution of the issues in this case past that.”

The partial injunction on sweeping of encampments will last until the conclusion of the San Francisco trial in the case. 

The court will hold a further case management conference on Aug. 7, according to today’s ruling. 

More on the injunction

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. Why no discussion of the harm to the city and its residents from these ghastly encampments and their resident drug addicts/insane people all over the city?

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  2. Encampments are coming back to the mission quickly- Folsom/17th/treat as one recent example. I thought that it was recently ruled that if the homeless refuse shelter offered by the city, that encampments can now (recently) be removed. So does this latest ruling reverse that? Meaning that encampments can again stay even if the homeless refuse available shelter? If so, we’re going backward again 🙁

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    1. The city can always clean encampments. It follows the law and pretends it’s been stymied by the law as it suits. No law says folks are allowed to set up semi-permanent shanty towns on sidewalks. We have laws on the books against chop shops, too.

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  3. It is a 100% certainty that the Supreme Court reverses the Grants Pass decision. This injunction in SF should be vacated by June or shortly thereafter.

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  4. I want to know why Judge Ryu is not in jail. immediately after her initial ruling to support the injunction, Elon Musk unambiguously stated Judge Ryu must be thrown in jail. To date, she is still free to walk, and poop, on our city street. If government by and for billionaires means anything, the City or State must act immediately to jail Ryu.

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