Judge Denies Preliminary Gang Injunction
Mission and State | February 10, 2014
Sharp-dressed lawyers sat next to students and members of PODER (People Organizing for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara), many of whom had tape over their mouths to protest what they say has been the lack of public input into the city’s proposed gang injunction—the issue at hand.
All in all, about 50 people filed into Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne’s courtroom on the morning of February 10 for what they thought would be the opening salvos in the arguments for and against a preliminary gang injunction.
Instead, Sterne asked lawyers representing the city and those representing defendants named in the injunction exactly why there needed to be a preliminary injunction hearing when a hearing for the permanent injunction was already on the docket.
Although there was some legal wrangling over the discovery process and how it would play into scheduling a hearing, neither side could come up with a good answer, so Sterne decided to skip the preliminary proceedings and push the hearing for the permanent injunction from March 17 to May 5.
Though it’s less than the 90 days the defense requested to review interviews, documents, depositions and other evidence from the plaintiffs, both sides agreed to the date. As it stands, the proposed gang injunction will be heard, once and for all, on May 5.
“I’m happy because she didn’t set a hearing for next October,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Hilary Dozer said following the proceedings, “but at some point we have to face the fact that we requested an injunction because we believe that Santa Barbara deserves better.”
The proposed injunction, a civil lawsuit filed by the Santa Barbara City Attorney’s office and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney on behalf of the Santa Barbara City Council, was first introduced in March 2011. The plaintiffs asked the judge to make a permanent Order for Injunction against the defendants—the Eastside and Westside gangs. Also named in the complaint are 30 alleged gang members and “Does 1 through 300”—placeholders for individuals who may be named in the future.
In making her decision, Sterne said she was sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ plea that the injunction has been long awaiting its day in court, but Sterne said she doesn’t see how basically trying it twice (the preliminary and permanent) makes sense. “I just don’t think it’s a very good use of resources,” she said.
Photo credit Alex Kacik