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Judge denies challengers’ request for new trial on ruling that exempted Huntington Beach from state ‘sanctuary’ law

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Supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 54, a California “sanctuary” law providing protections for undocumented immigrants, hold signs as then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, left, speaks in Newport Beach in April. Huntington Beach successfully challenged the law in court.
(File Photo)

An Orange County Superior Court judge Monday denied a request from two residents of Huntington Beach’s Oak View neighborhood to reconsider his September ruling that exempted the city from complying with state-mandated legal protections for undocumented immigrants exiting police custody.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Latham & Watkins filed a request in November for a new trial with Judge James Crandall on behalf of Oak View’s Victor Valladares and Oscar Rodriguez, as well as the Rev. Samuel Pullen and Henry Josefsberg of Los Alamitos Community United. The latter are seeking to overturn the city of Los Alamitos’ decision to ignore the California Values Act, also known as Senate Bill 54.

After Crandall’s decision rejecting the request, the ACLU filed a notice of appeal of his original ruling, attorney Sameer Ahmed said in an email Monday evening.

The California Values Act — authored by state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) — in many cases prohibits state and local police agencies from notifying federal officials about the impending release of immigrants in custody who may be deported.

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On Sept. 27, Crandall sided with Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates, who argued that the law is unconstitutional as it applies to charter cities, which include Huntington and Los Alamitos. Such cities can adopt local laws that sometimes differ from state general laws that govern non-charter cities.

The ruling made Huntington Beach the first city to successfully challenge Senate Bill 54. Gates said the decision exempted all of California’s 121 charter cities.

The ACLU contended that Crandall’s ruling created fear in Oak View over the California Values Act not being enforced. Oak View is a predominantly Latino neighborhood bounded by Warner and Talbert avenues and Gothard Street and Beach Boulevard.

But Crandall denied the challengers’ request to reconsider after hearing arguments Monday from Ahmed, Gates, Latham & Watkins attorney Samir Deger-Sen and California Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Eisenberg.

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According to Crandall, in order to be granted a new trial, the ACLU needed to prove that its clients are “aggrieved” in relation to the lack of enforcement of the law.

Though Valladares and Rodriguez discussed residents’ fears of interacting with Huntington Beach police if the California Values Act weren’t enforced, they didn’t give specific examples, Crandall wrote.

“Their declarations do not establish an ‘immediate, pecuniary and substantial interest,’” Crandall wrote.

Ahmed said in his email that “the court’s order and the city of Huntington Beach’s actions have caused significant harm to the residents of Huntington Beach.”

“We are hopeful that the order will be overturned on appeal and the important California values of diversity, inclusion and supporting and protecting our invaluable immigrant communities will be upheld in Huntington Beach and across the state,” he added.

Valladares called the ruling “unjust” and said Tuesday that he and Rodriguez will continue to challenge Huntington Beach’s “anti-immigrant policies.”

“We may have lost this battle, but the war is not over,” he said. “The people will prevail.”

Rodriguez declined to comment, as did Jennifer Molina, press secretary for the state attorney general’s office, who referred questions to the ACLU.

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Gates said in an email that the city is “gratified” by its latest win in the closely watched legal battle.

The challenge to the state mandate, Gates said, has always been about “unconstitutional overreach,” not politics or “immigration enforcement policy per se.”

He called the request for a new trial “politically driven” and an attempt to undermine Crandall’s original ruling.

The judge said his September decision is likely to make its way to the California Supreme Court. Eisenberg filed an appeal in November that is still pending in the state 4th District Court of Appeal for review by a panel of three judges.

Priscella.Vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella


UPDATES:

This article was originally published at 7:15 p.m. Jan. 7 and was later updated with additional comments.

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