Monday, January 13, 2020
Court of Appeal:
Stance of Huntington Beach That California Constitutional Provision Affords Autonomy to Home-Rule Municipalities in Area of Police Activities Is Rejected
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Chartered cities are not exempt from the California’s “sanctuary state” statute barring local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal agents in cracking down on illegal immigration, Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal held Friday.
Acting Presiding Justice Richard D. Fybel wrote the opinion which upholds Government Code §7284.6, a portion of the California Values Act, enacted in 2017 as SB54. That section bars law enforcement agencies from using “moneys or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”
Several of California’s 121 chartered cities have proclaimed that they are exempt from the statute, pointing to Art. XI, §5(b) of the state Constitution which provides:
“It shall be competent in all city charters to provide, in addition to those provisions allowable by this Constitution, and by the laws of the State for: (1) the constitution, regulation, and government of the city police force to create, regulate, and govern city police forces.”
Rejecting the contention of the City of Huntington Beach that the constitutional provision vests in it absolute home rule authority over its police department, Fybel declared:
“Home rule authority under article XI, section 5 of the California Constitution does not mean charter cities can never be subject to state laws that concern or regulate municipal affairs.”
Rather, he said, the California Supreme Court has declared that chartered cities must bow to the general law with respect to matters of “statewide concern.” He wrote:
“We hold section 7284.6 is constitutional as applied to charter cities because it addresses matters of statewide concern—including public safety and health, effective policing, and protection of constitutional rights—is reasonably related to resolution of those statewide concerns, and is narrowly tailored to avoid unnecessary interference in local government.”
The jurist pointed to studies showing that cooperation of local law enforcement authorities with immigration officials generates distrust among Latinos, deterring them from reporting crimes or acting as witnesses, and would also tend to avoid seeking health care. A willingness to interact with police is a matter of statewide concern, Fybel as is public health.
“[W]e conclude the protection of the constitutional rights of California residents is a matter of paramount statewide concern….The State of California has a constitution which guarantees and protects certain rights to all people….The Legislature found that state and local participation in federal immigration enforcement programs would create the risk that California residents would suffer violations of their constitutional rights. Guaranteeing rights and protections afforded by the state constitution is a matter of statewide concern.”
The opinion reverses Orange Superior Court Judge James L. Crandall’s judgment granting a petition for a writ of mandate to Huntington Beach barring Attorney General Xavier Becerra from enforcing §7284.6 against it.
Becerra commented Friday:
“We’ll continue to do our part to uphold our state’s laws that work to enhance trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates released a statement saying that the Court of Appeal “incorrectly subordinates and subjects rights expressly provided by the California Constitution to Charter Cities to a judicially created ‘test,’ ” adding:
“If this fight for constitutional rights does not continue here and in other cities, then the state will eventually literally be able to dictate every aspect of local governance, which would render local governance pointless,” said Gates.
The case is City of Huntington Beach v. Becerra, G057013.
Also decided Friday was an appeal of Crandall’s decision by two community organizations and four individuals. In a separate opinion, that was not certified for publication, Fybel said:
“We now conclude the Community Appellants lack standing to appeal under applicable law and therefore grant the City’s motion to dismiss the appeal. In the companion appeal, the Attorney General has vigorously—and successfully—argued the same legal points made by the Community Appellants.”
Fybel said the would-be appellants, who were not parties to the Superior Court proceeding, are not “aggrieved” parties within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure §902 which provides that “[a]ny party aggrieved may appeal” from an adverse judgment or order. Only parties, he pointed out, are said to be “aggrieved.”
That case is City of Huntington Beach v. Los Alamitos Community United, G057209.
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