Crime & Justice

Judge to decide if community can challenge Echo Park gang injunction

Veronica Arellano (center) is among a group asking a judge to allow them to intervene and challenge a gang injunction in the Echo Park and Silver Lake neighborhoods.
Veronica Arellano (center) is among a group asking a judge to allow them to intervene and challenge a gang injunction in the Echo Park and Silver Lake neighborhoods.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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Echo Park residents are awaiting a judge's decision on their request to intervene and prevent the City of Los Angeles from implementing a gang injunction in the neighborhood.

L.A. County Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan has tentatively ruled in favor of the city. But after hearing arguments in his courtroom Friday, he told attorneys that he would deliver an official ruling at a later date.

The L.A. City Attorney’s Office was granted permission in September to impose a civil order – commonly known as a gang injunction – against individuals accused of belonging to six gangs in Echo Park and Silver Lake. A 3.8 square mile area has been declared a “safety zone.” That means people listed as a gang member and served under the gang injunction cannot associate in public places. No one has been served – meaning no one has been officially notified by the city that they are named in the injunction.

Kurt Beir is an attorney representing 16 people who are asking to be allowed to intervene in the case. He said the injunction would prevent family members and close friends from being able to hang out in public together.

“It feels like this is being imposed on the community without them being heard,” Beir told the judge.

Beir argued in court that if the gang injunction was important to public safety, then why hasn’t the city attorney’s office served anyone yet?

City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement that he wants to wait until the end of the court hearings before he begins alerting those people named in the injunction.

"We wanted to respect the Court's consideration of this matter," Feur wrote. "We are confident in our arguments and that the Court will rule in our favor, and once it does we will begin service."

In October, the interveners asked the judge to delay hearings on their motions until the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals delivered its ruling on a lawsuit challenging a gang injunction filed by the Orange County District Attorney.

In that case, the federal appeals court ruled in November that the Orange County D.A.’s office violated people’s constitutional rights by preventing them from being able to challenge their alleged gang affiliation.

About 50 people tried to challenge the 2009 gang injunction in state court, but were dismissed from the case. They were added back to the injunction when the Orange County D.A.’s office was granted permission to impose an injunction on the gang as group, instead of serving individuals.

Judge Khan said in court that he didn’t believe the same issue was at play in this case because there are ways to opt out of the Echo Park injunction through the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office.

“Part of what you argued is a political issue,” Khan told the attorney representing community interveners. “Maybe it’s that politician that you need to talk to you.”

Bier countered by saying that giving people an opt-out clause after being served with the injunction denies people their right to due process.

The judge is expected to render a final ruling next week on whether the interveners will be allowed to challenge the city's gang injunction.

Proposed City of L.A. gang injunction for Echo Park and some surrounding communities