A panel of appellate court justices Friday overturned an Orange County Superior Court judge’s ruling siding with Huntington Beach in its lawsuit challenging the state’s so-called sanctuary state law.
Huntington Beach officials argued the city did not have to abide by the state’s California Values Act because it is a charter city and the constitution gives charter cities more authority to impose laws, which supersede state laws.
The three-justice panel of the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal disagreed.
The state’s law was 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,” Associate Justice Richard F. Fybel wrote, with Justices Raymond J. Ikola and Thomas Goethals concurring.
Fybel concluded that the state law “is reasonably related to resolution of those statewide concerns, and is narrowly tailored to avoid unnecessary interference in local government.”
The appellate panel also found that the American Civil Liberties Union, Los Alamitos Community United and four residents lacked legal standing to intervene in the case.
Huntington Beach attorney Michael Gates told City News Service that he will recommend the City Council appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The appellate justices’ opinion “not only makes the state’s case, they go beyond it and add additional analysis,” Gates said.
“I’m very disappointed in the ruling and will talk to the city council about the next steps, but I don’t believe, based on all of my extensive research of all of the case law, that this is a reasonable, final word on this,” Gates said.
The issue was destined to be settled by the state’s high court in any event, Gates acknowledged.
The appellate ruling is “saying that express constitutional authority is subordinate to (the justices’) analysis,” Gates said. “You don’t get to qualify or alter what the Constitution says, or to rewrite the Constitution.”
ACLU attorney Jessica Bansal said, “Today’s decision is a resounding victory for sanctuary in California. The appellate court decision affirms that all Californians — including the millions living in charter cities — are entitled to the California Value Act’s protections. We are especially thankful to the many Orange County residents and community organizations who stood up to defend sanctuary in their communities.”
The appellate panel cited cases going back to the 19th century in its recapping of the history of rulings regarding the authority of charter cities under state laws.
The city argued the state cannot apply its laws for charter cities when it pertains to strictly local issues such as the operation of a police force. But the justices noted that the state’s laws supersede charter city laws when an issue of “statewide concern” arises.
The justices noted declarations in the state’s case from police chiefs who said undocumented immigrants in their cities were less likely to cooperate with law enforcement for fear of deportation, but the California Values Act helps ease those concerns.
“The need for immigrants to report crimes, work with law enforcement, and serve as witnesses, is therefore a statewide, and not purely local, concern,” Fybel wrote.
The justices also noted immigrants may also eschew health care or attending school out of the fear of deportation.
Huntington Beach police Chief Handy said in a declaration in the lawsuit that the state’s law interferes with the operation of the city’s jail and allows some criminals to be released into the community instead of being handed off to immigration authorities. Handy also said the state’s law interfered with the department’s “contract” with immigration authorities in join operations and hindered its discretion to work cooperatively with federal law enforcement.
The justices, however, noted that the state law preventing a direct handoff of criminals to immigration authorities does not apply to seriously violent convicts such as sex offenders and arsonists.
The state law “prohibits a local law enforcement agency from transferring a person to immigration authorities unless authorized by judicial warrant or a probable cause determination,” Fybel wrote.
State lawmakers “narrowly tailored the (California Values Act) to address legitimate public safety and other statewide concerns and not to thwart the ability of state and local law enforcement to transfer dangerous felons to federal immigration officials,” Fybel wrote.