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McGuireWoods Pro Bono Team Pursues Justice for Unhoused Clients in Los Angeles

April 23, 2024

McGuireWoods assisted the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) in achieving a key procedural victory in long-running litigation challenging the city’s practice of seizing and destroying the possessions of unhoused individuals.

In February 2024, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found that Los Angeles city officials altered evidence to support the city’s defense against allegations that it illegally seized and destroyed the personal property. U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer also concluded that the city failed to produce certain documents requested during discovery.

“The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that spoliation has occurred during the course of the litigation — but the full extent has not yet been determined,” Fischer wrote in her Feb. 15, 2024, order in Janet Garcia, et al. v. City of Los Angeles.

Fischer previously issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of an ordinance provision that allowed the city to seize and destroy certain belongings it deemed to be “bulky items.” The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that order. The case has since stalled over disputes about the accuracy of the city’s records.

The Los Angeles Times published a front-page story on April 17, 2024, detailing the latest developments in the litigation.

“According to court filings, records documenting what was taken during cleanups and the legal authorization for the seizure were altered or created up to two years after the cleanup occurred and some instances just days before they were turned over to the plaintiffs,” the Times reported.

Tanya Greene, managing partner of McGuireWoods downtown Los Angeles office, leads the McGuireWoods team serving as co-counsel in the case along with Kirkland & Ellis and LAFLA. Key McGuireWoods team members include downtown Los Angeles partners Greg Evans and Nick Hoffman and associate Taline Gettas, Century City associates Kelsey Haines and Deleyla Lawrence, and downtown Los Angeles associates Alex Scandroli and Abigail Urquhart.