U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez heard arguments Monday in a lawsuit challenging government sweeps of unauthorized homeless encampments in Seattle.
An initial ruling is expected soon in a lawsuit challenging how Seattle and Washington state are dealing with unauthorized homeless encampments in the city.
Two homeless people sued last month, accusing the city and the state transportation department of violating the rights of people living outdoors by seizing and destroying their property while evicting them from and clearing away their encampments.
Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, the plaintiffs have requested a temporary restraining order that would impose a number of restrictions on the city and the state with respect to personal property and the encampment sweeps.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez heard arguments on the proposed order Monday afternoon. Martinez said he would issue a written ruling after further review.
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“I’m a little skeptical” of granting the order, he said. “But let me think about it.”
The region’s Episcopal Diocese and the Real Change street newspaper are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status for an estimated 20,000 people living outside in Seattle.
In court Monday, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said the temporary restraining order is needed because people in unauthorized encampments are being subjected to “ongoing and irreparable” harm.
In 968 sweeps over 21 recent months in Seattle, belongings were inventoried only 7 percent of the time, said the lawyer, Todd Williams.
A lawyer for the city described those numbers as misleading. Matthew Segal conceded that the sweeps aren’t always perfect but said efforts are being made to safeguard personal property.
“The city is going out of its way … to provide greater protections” for people living outdoors, Segal said.