MAY 01, 2014
(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch announced today that it filed an answer brief in the California Court of Appeal following the City of Los Angeles’s appeal of a Superior Court ruling declaring Special Order 7 to be unlawful. Special Order 7 is a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) regulation requiring vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers to be released instead of impounded for 30-days (Sturgeon v. City of Los Angeles (No. BC482190)). In a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch on behalf of a California taxpayer, the Superior Court ruled in August 2013 that the regulation, enacted by the City after substantial lobbying efforts by the illegal alien community, violated the California Constitution and the California Vehicle Code.
Under Section 14602.6 of the California Vehicle Code, officers are given the discretion to arrest a driver and impound his or her vehicle for 30 days if the driver has never been issued a license or is driving on a suspended or revoked license. Under Section 14607.6, officers are required to impound a vehicle if a driver is unlicensed or driving on a suspended or revoked license and has a history of unlawful driving. Special Order 7 “has re-written laws enacted by the Legislature,” according to Judicial Watch’s answer brief, making the LAPD regulation “unlawful, ultra vires, and void.”
Specifically, Judicial Watch’s “Combined Answer Brief,” filed on behalf of Los Angeles resident and taxpayer Harold Sturgeon, makes the following key arguments:
- Special Order No. 7 Is Preempted by The Vehicle Code.
The California Constitution declares that “[a] county or city may make and enforce within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances or regulations not in conflict with general laws … If an otherwise valid local regulation conflicts with state law, it is preempted by the state law and is void …
The City admitted that Special Order No. 7 regulates matters already covered by Sections 14602.6 and 14607.6 in the very first sentence of its unsuccessful demurrer to Sturgeon’s Complaint:
Both LAPD Special Order [N]o. 7 and California Vehicle Code section[s] 14602.6 and 14607.6 regulate the release of a vehicle to its registered owner when the vehicle has been seized because it was driven by someone not in possession of a valid driver’s license.
- Special Order No. 7 Is Not Guidance.
The primary argument raised by the City and Interveners in defense of Special Order No. 7 is that the City’s regulation is only guidance and municipalities must be allowed to provide guidance to their police officers … The lower court agreed that Special Order No. 7 is not mere guidance, “But this Special Order 7 is much more than just guidance. It’s much more than just training. It actually changes. It changes the law. It changes the outcome” … In the words of the lower court, Special Order No. 7 is a “game changer” … No. 7 does not guide officers in the exercise of their discretion; it re-writes the law.
The City’s police union, the Los Angeles Police Protection League, also filed a lawsuit challenging Special Order 7. Advocates for illegal aliens represented by the ACLU intervened on the side of the City to help defend the LAPD regulation. In October 2013, a panel of three justices from the California Court of Appeals granted the City of Los Angeles a temporary staythat allows the LAPD to continue to follow Special Order 7 while the case works its way through the appeals process.
“The Appeals Court should uphold the Superior Court’s decision and protect and defend California’s Constitution against LAPD regulation,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Special Order 7 is illegal and dangerous. Unlicensed drivers – whether they are illegal aliens or not – are a menace to public safety. Los Angeles should not put immigration politics above the public safety.”
Judicial Watch previously sued the LAPD over Special Order 40, a policy that prohibits police officers from initiating “police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person.” Despite an obvious conflict with federal law, California state courts refused to let the challenge against Special Order 40 proceed to trial.