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Judge allows Huntington Beach’s lawsuit targeting California's 'sanctuary state' laws to go forward

Judge allows Huntington Beach’s lawsuit targeting California's 'sanctuary state' laws to go forward
Opponents of Senate Bill 54 hold up signs during a Huntington Beach City Council meeting on April 2. (Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

An Orange County Superior Court judge has given the green light to Huntington Beach’s lawsuit opposing California’s “sanctuary state” protections for immigrants in the country illegally, denying the state’s attempt to delay it.

An expedited trial is scheduled for Sept. 27 before Judge James Crandall.

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After a trial-setting conference Thursday, City Atty. Michael Gates said he was “very pleased” with Crandall’s decision, which was published in a judicial notice Wednesday evening. It’s “telling [that] the court is interested in taking up the matter,” Gates said.

Crandall will determine whether Senate Bill 54, authored by state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), wrongfully keeps municipalities from taking certain actions and spending general fund money on certain law enforcement.

SB 54 in many cases prohibits state and local police agencies from notifying federal officials about the impending release of in-custody immigrants who may be deported.

Gates argues SB 54 is unconstitutional as it applies to charter cities like Huntington Beach.

Earlier this month, California Deputy Atty. Gen. Jonathan Eisenberg filed a motion to halt action on the lawsuit. He argued the delay would be “more efficient” and would prevent “unnecessary duplication” because two similar federal cases are further along in the legal system.

But Crandall denied Eisenberg’s request, writing that the “two federal actions do not cover the same subject matter.”

Crandall said there wouldn’t be a conflict even if the city’s suit lost because the city’s argument relies on its charter status. The federal lawsuits still could prevail on different merits.

Eisenberg declined to comment Thursday.

Huntington Beach Mayor Mike Posey and Mayor Pro Tem Erik Peterson proposed the lawsuit as a way to “seek relief” from the state’s sanctuary policies. Gates sued in April with a 6-1 approval from the City Council. Councilwoman Jill Hardy dissented.

Huntington Beach joined a wave of other Orange County cities opposed to SB 54 that started in March when the Los Alamitos City Council passed an ordinance opting out of the law.

Vega writes for Times Community News.

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