Judicial Watch Files Taxpayer Lawsuit against Police Chief Beck, City of Los Angeles over Special Order 7
MAY 09, 2012
Under New Policy Police Officers Will No Longer Impound Vehicles of Unlicensed Drivers for 30 Days in Violation of California Constitution and California Vehicle Code
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced that it filed a taxpayer lawsuit yesterday against the Los Angeles Police Department, Police Chief Charlie Beck and members of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners over Special Order 7, a new policy that seeks to regulate the impounding of vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers (Harold P. Sturgeon v. City of Los Angeles et. al (No. BC484190)). Under Special Order 7, police officers will no longer immediately impound the vehicles of unlicensed drivers for 30 days, as long as they meet certain conditions. The policy change was made to specifically help unlicensed illegal aliens.
Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed May 8, 2012, in the Superior Court for the State of California, County of Los Angeles, seeks to stop the use of taxpayer funds to implement the new policy:
Plaintiff, a taxpayer and resident of the City of Los Angeles, seeks to enjoin Defendants from expending taxpayer funds or taxpayer-financed resources to implement, enforce, maintain, or otherwise carry out the provisions of Special Order 7, which was issued by the Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) on April 10, 2012 and which became effective on April 22, 2012. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that Special Order 7 is preempted by article XI, section 7 of the California Constitution and California Vehicle Code § 21, and therefore is unlawful and void.
Under the California Vehicle Code, vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers can be impounded for 30 days and, in some circumstances, must be impounded for 30 days. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, however, under the new policy “vehicles of unlicensed drivers will only be impounded for a day, if that person has insurance, valid identification, has not caused an accident and has not been cited previously for unlicensed driving. An exception may be made in some cases if a licensed driver is immediately available to drive the vehicle away.”
As Judicial Watch alleges in its complaint, according to the California Constitution and California Vehicle Code § 21, “a local government has no authority to regulate or control any matter covered by the California Vehicle Code unless such authority is expressly granted by the State of California….Because the provisions of Special Order 7 are not within the purview of any express authorization granted by the State of California Defendants…were without authority to enact Special Order 7….”
The city’s police union, The Los Angeles Police Protection League, has also filed a lawsuit challenging the new policy.
“This is yet another example of the Los Angeles Police Department’s unlawful use of taxpayer dollars to further Los Angeles’ status as a sanctuary city,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Special Order 7 is illegal and dangerous. Unlicensed drivers – whether unlawfully present aliens or not – are a menace to the public safety. The Los Angeles Police Department is once again putting politics and ideology before the safety of citizens, police officers and the rule of law.”
Judicial Watch previously sued the LAPD over Special Order 40, a policy that prohibits police officers from “initiat[ing] police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person,” on behalf of a taxpayer. Despite an obvious conflict with federal law, California state courts refused to let Judicial Watch’s taxpayer legal challenge against Special Order 40 proceed to trial.