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Newport Beach to take decision on group-home rules to Supreme Court

March 27, 2014|By Emily Foxhall, Daily Pilot

A Newport Beach ordinance limiting group homes, struck down by a federal appeals court, has been cited repeatedly by Burbank officials who say they are extremely restricted in regulating such facilities.

But last week, Burbank City Council members said they would consider a temporary ban on such homes, following a request from dozens of residents demanding action. 

The Orange County city plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision that determined its group home ordinance is discriminatory, the Daily Pilot reported.

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Newport Beach City Council members voted unanimously during a closed session meeting Tuesday to pursue the petition, City Atty. Aaron Harp said.

At stake is an ongoing argument over whether group homes in Newport Beach can challenge the municipal ordinance limiting homes for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts at trial.

Many of the homes were forced out of the city by a 2008 law placing strict limits on them. The ordinance was fueled by residents who complained about parking, traffic, cigarette smoke, noise and an ever-changing cast of neighbors.

In September, a three-person panel of 9th Circuit judges ruled that the city ordinance may have been motivated by discrimination against those in recovery.

The decision was heralded by some as a victory for sober-living homes, but it prompted concern from other judges, who later wrote a dissenting opinion.

One 9th Circuit judge asked the groups involved in the case to explain whether a larger panel should rehear an appeal in the case, but not enough support was found among judges to do so.

Still, five judges chose to write a dissenting opinion — prompting the city's petition to the Supreme Court.

"At least five U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals justices believe that the city's position has merit and that the panel that heard the case should have decided in the city's favor," Harp said.

The dissenting opinion was written by Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, who was joined by Judges Richard Tallman, Consuelo Callahan, Carlos Bea and Sandra Ikuta.

In it, they argue that the panel's decision lays the groundwork for cities to be held liable for accusations of discrimination when they shouldn't be.

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