History of addiction doesn’t automatically mean people are disabled, federal judge rules


A historical past of dependancy doesn’t robotically imply an individual is disabled and other people hoping to be protected by federal regulation should prove their disability on a case-by-case foundation, a federal choose dominated this week in a lawsuit involving Costa Mesa.

If upheld, the March 4 ruling by U.S. District Courtroom Decide James V. Selna may essentially change the way in which cities regulate sober dwelling houses which have come to dominate many neighborhoods in Southern California.

Selna’s order undercuts arguments from sober dwelling operators who say that everybody with a historical past of dependancy is robotically entitled to authorized safety — and that privateness legal guidelines forbid them from sharing residents’ private particulars which may show incapacity.

It’s a serious win for Costa Mesa, which has been waging a lonely and expensive battle over the town’s tough new zoning laws aiming to regulate the expansion of sober dwelling and different group houses.

“The court docket’s ruling as soon as once more validates Costa Mesa’s resolution to undertake affordable guidelines and push again towards bogus lawsuits by abusive operators who profit financially from exploiting folks affected by dependancy whereas additionally disrupting our group,” stated Mayor Katrina Foley by textual content.

Teams of homeless folks, together with rehab dropouts, dangle collectively in Costa Mesa on Tuesday, Dec 12, 2017.(Picture by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

“Your complete metropolis council, and I as mayor, stay steadfast in our dedication to guard all residents, together with these exploited by unscrupulous operators of sober dwelling houses.”

Casa Capri filed swimsuit towards Costa Mesa after it was denied metropolis permits to deal with as much as 28 ladies in eight items. The corporate argued that it misplaced cash as a result of it was compelled to shut houses, and that Costa Mesa’s guidelines discriminate towards the disabled, a violation of the federal People with Disabilities Act and Honest Housing Act.

A crux of the dispute was who exactly is disabled, and the way that standing is established. Since Casa Capri wouldn’t present element on that, the choose granted the town’s movement for abstract judgment, which ends the case.

However the struggle shouldn’t be over.

“We can be interesting this newest order,” stated Isaac R. Zfaty, an lawyer for Casa Capri, through electronic mail.

“As with the opposite instances that our group has filed towards Costa Mesa (and different native municipalities) on account of the myriad violations of our purchasers’ rights, we imagine that there was faulty purposes of the regulation by the District Courtroom.

“We’re assured that the ninth Circuit Courtroom of Appeals will reverse this newest resolution.”

Meantime, Costa Mesa will pursue Casa Capri to get well all its prices, stated lawyer Sy Everett of Everett Dorey LLP, which represents the town.


Costa Mesa’s zoning guidelines prohibit intercourse offenders, violent felons and drug sellers from working sober houses. The town additionally requires that such houses present 24/7 supervision of purchasers, mandate a minimal 650-foot separation between services, and require a particular metropolis allow, which operators say has been nearly inconceivable to get.

Everett has been defending Costa Mesa in six related fits, and the town has related motions for abstract judgment pending in 4 of them.

To date, Costa Mesa has prevailed in two: One, filed by Yellowstone Girls’s First Step Home, which went before a jury; and this one, filed by Casa Capri, which was tossed by the choose.

After taking pictures heroin behind a Costa Mesa restaurant, Sergius Harty, 25, ponders his subsequent transfer. He must do medication at the least each six hours or he begins having withdrawals. (Mindy Schauer, Workers File) 

“The Courtroom’s ruling is one other clear victory for Costa Mesa and validates the town’s ordinance as honest and simply,” stated Everett.  “Because the prevailing occasion, Costa Mesa will get well all prices related to this lawsuit. Costa Mesa will request that the remaining lawsuits be dismissed to place an finish to this meritless litigation.”

The authorized struggle thus far has value Costa Mesa some $7 million, roughly 4% of the town’s annual finances.

The problem

The Southern California Information Group has spent years probing deaths, sexual assaults, drug use and illegal paying-for-patients in California’s loosely-regulated dependancy remedy business, dubbed the Rehab Riviera.

Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have greater than half of California’s licensed dependancy rehabs, and lots of extra for-profit sober dwelling houses, that are unlicensed and unregulated teams of individuals simply attempting to dwell substance-free lives collectively.

Costa Mesa has one of many highest concentrations of such services within the state — a perform of cheap houses near the seashore — and neighbors argue that the houses typically generate criminal activity and essentially alter the character of communities.

Certainly, the town battled Casa Capri’s allegations by charging that it ran afoul of the regulation in an eye-popping “unclean hands” protection. Casa Capri couldn’t get well any damages from the town as a result of its enterprise operations had been “illegally performed within the first place,” the town argued.

Sworn testimony taken final 12 months alleged that Casa Capri took unlawful referral charges, directed sober dwelling purchasers to an affiliated outpatient remedy program in alternate for 20 % of billing proceeds, and allowed unauthorized folks to manage drugs.

Testimony additionally alleged that Casa Capri bought kickbacks from a urine-testing operation and took part in insurance coverage fraud by sending urine samples for costly evaluation, whether or not or not preliminary checks discovered medication had been current, in accordance with the town’s submitting.

Casa Capri’s proprietor and others have stated they’ve achieved nothing fallacious.

Many cities are grappling with an explosion of dependancy remedy facilities and sober dwelling houses, however are reluctant to manage them for concern of lawsuits. Costa Mesa could also be blazing a authorized path that they will observe.

Certainly, the County of Orange has adopted its own version of Costa Mesa’s zoning rules, and authorities hope different cities will observe the lead.

Testimony within the Casa Capri case established that sober dwelling houses have been closing in Costa Mesa and opening up in close by communities that don’t have such strict legal guidelines.


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