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The First District Court of Appeal appeared unwilling to wait for the state Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of Oakland’s “Beat Feet” ordinance during oral arguments Wednesday afternoon. The appeal arose after former Alameda County Judge James Richman threw out a lawsuit targeting Oakland’s controversial nuisance vehicle forfeiture law. Under the ordinance, vehicles used to solicit prostitutes or used in a drug deal can be declared a nuisance, then seized and sold by the city government. Because a suspect immediately loses control of his vehicle, he must “beat feet” back to where he came from. Christopher Kee, a deputy city attorney in Oakland, asked the justices Wednesday to postpone a decision in Sohigian v. City of Oakland, A103031, until the Supreme Court addresses a separate challenge to a similar law in the city of Stockton. The high court granted review in September. “It seems impractical to have a decision come down from another court while the Supreme Court is reviewing the same issues,” Kee told the court. But Justice Joanne Parrilli seemed to dismiss Kee’s advice to the First District panel. “What is your suggestion with respect to this case?” she asked. “Do you suggest that we forget it ever happened?” The Oakland city attorney’s office argued in briefs that the appeal, brought by San Francisco attorney Mark Clausen, failed to state a valid cause of action, which is why Richman entered judgment in favor of the city. Because Oakland’s 9-year-old vehicle forfeiture law has inspired at least 20 other California cities � including Los Angeles, Sacramento and Stockton � to duplicate it, Clausen urged the First District not to wait for the state Supreme Court to decide O’Connell v. City of Stockton, S135160. “Guidance needs to be provided from the [First District] court until such time as the Supreme Court grants review,” said Clausen, who also filed the O’Connell suit. Clausen, who lost an earlier challenge to Oakland’s law, has been waiting years for the courts to resolve the legal issues surrounding the Beat Feet ordinance. Last year, the Third District Court of Appeal accepted Clausen’s argument that Stockton’s ordinance violated due process rights. As a result of that decision, Oakland amended its ordinance in June to allow for probable cause hearings. But Clausen maintains that the amendment fails to remedy the constitutional questions surrounding the Oakland ordinance. It doesn’t undermine his legal challenge in Sohigian because state law still pre-empts the city from enforcing its ordinance, and it still violates due process rights, he said. Clausen pointedly asked the court Wednesday to bar the practice of allowing the city attorney’s office to “profit” from prosecuting nuisance vehicle forfeitures. Once the city sells a seized vehicle, proceeds from the sale go first to owners of the vehicle who were not involved in the crime. The remaining funds are distributed between the city attorney and law enforcement agencies that seized the car. “This court is in a position to adjudicate on that issue,” he said. Following court arguments, Clausen said he expects Sohigian to wind up in the Supreme Court along with O’Connell. “Whoever loses is going to ask for review,” he said.

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