Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Will Honolulu continue its illegal raids on homeless encampments now that a lawsuit has been filed?

by Larry Geller

ACLU press conferenceA class action lawsuit has been filed by the ACLU of Hawaii along with Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing to enjoin the city of Honolulu from conducting illegal sweeps of homeless encampments during which personal property is seized and destroyed in violation of Fourth and 14th amendments of the US Constitution. The lawsuit also seeks as-yet unspecified damages.

An unofficial OCR copy of the complaint is below. It’s written in plain language—even the Honolulu City Council may be able to understand it.

(Photo: Plaintiff Tabatha Martin,
holding her 4-year-old daughter,
and ACLU of Hawaii Legal
Director Daniel Gluck address
the media.)

It’s been no secret to Disappeared News readers that during the City’s raids on homeless encampments, property including tents, ID, medicines and other personal items are seized and thrown into waiting garbage trucks. The City ordinances call for storage, but often city workers pay no heed or the tents are raided while the occupants are off at work or otherwise away for the moment. Honolulu police stand by and do not stop the city workers even though the law is clearly being broken.

While the stored property ordinances call for storage of personal property by the City so that it may be claimed for retrieval, in practice it is impossible for someone without transportation and the required $200 retrieval fee to ever get back their things. Here is a snip from the complaint describing the situation of one of the plaintiffs:

The City seized the Martins' marriage certificate, T.M.'s birth certificate, and Mr. Martin's birth certificate, Social Security Card and State Identification cards. Among other things, the City also seized the Martins' clothes, their tent, and their propane stove, as well as T.M.'s diapers, backpack, clothing, and toys.

The Martins did not receive any kind of receipt or notice from the City indicating that they could retrieve their property. Indeed, they did not believe they could retrieve their property even if they wanted to, because the City had seized their identification documents; this belief was supported by the Martins' conversation with one individual in Kaka'ako who actually attempted to retrieve his property, but was unable to do so because he lacked identification and /or could not prove that the property belonged to him. As such, the Martins believed that any attempt to retrieve their property would be futile.

As attorney Daniel Gluck, Legal Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, explained,

Simply put, the government cannot come up to a person on the street and immediately destroy that person’s belongings. There was no way for our clients to get their property back or otherwise challenge what the city had done; they had no other recourse but to file this lawsuit.

A question now is whether the city will continue its slow-speed “sweep” of the Kakaako encampment, and if they do, how soon a federal judge might intervene if an injunction is granted.

A copy of the complaint can be read or downloaded below.

This copy of the complaint is an OCR copy and should not be relied upon for any purpose—it may contain errors.

Download 20150916 1-15-cv-00363 Complaint-OCR from Disappeared News


It's great to see ACLU finally busting a move and filing a suit. Also great to see the Martins as plaintiffs. I first saw the Martins at a hearing on the sit/lie bills more than a year ago. Their testimony touched many hearts. Just not enough Councilmembers who continue their attack on the homeless.

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