An Orange County federal judge's 2011 summary judgment favoring Newport Beach officials after the city enacted discriminatory group home ordinances was a bad ruling, according to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision announced today.
A three judge panel determined that U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna shouldn't have disregarded evidence that violating state and federally-banned discrimination was "the city's sole objective in enacting and enforcing its ordinances" against homes where recovering drug and alcohol addicts temporarily reside.
"There is direct or circumstantial evidence that [city officials] acted with a discriminatory purpose and has caused harm to member of a protected class [and] such evidence is sufficient to permit the protected individuals to proceed to trial," a court-issued summary of the opinion states.
The appellate panel--comprised of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski as well as judges Stephen Reinhardt and Sidney R. Thomas--also determined that Selna erred by concluding that the plaintiffs, who claim they lost substantial business and incurred unnecessary expenses as a result of the city's discriminatory practices, weren't entitled to seek damages in court.
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The judges also opined that Selna, a 2003 appointee of President George W. Bush, incorrectly dismissed a claim of infliction of emotional distress for one of the plaintiffs.
City officials, who'd vocally celebrated Selna's rulings as an affirmation of their tactics, enacted the controversial rules after group homes flooded neighborhoods and alarmed local residents fearful of addicts roaming their streets.