Court Allows Steinle Parents to Sue Feds over Negligence in Kate’s Murder
Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero has allowed the family of Kate Steinle to bring a lawsuit against federal authorities for negligence contributing to her death.
It’s disappointing that the sanctuary policy of San Francisco won’t get nailed in the courts, because its lawlessness regarding criminal aliens has been shameful and deadly. In 2008, Tony Bologna and his two were murdered by an illegal alien MS-13 gang member that the city had coddled and protected. A few months ago, after the deaths of four innocents caused by San Francisco’s sanctuary approach, the city doubled down on its protection of foreign criminals.
More recently, San Francisco moved toward creating a war chest of taxpayer funds to pay lawyers to protect deportable aliens in court.
The legal system makes it very hard for victims of illegal alien crime to sue the government. For example, Danielle Bologna tried to sue San Francisco over the preventable deaths of her husband and two sons, but the case was disallowed. So even a limited lawsuit from the Steinle family is a victory. Let’s hope it succeeds.
Kathryn Steinle’s parents get OK to sue feds, but SF cleared, San Francisco Chronicle, January 7, 2017
The parents of Kathryn Steinle, who was shot to death on a San Francisco pier in July 2015 by an immigrant with a record of deportations, can sue the federal government for negligence because a ranger allegedly left the gun used in the shooting in his unlocked car, a federal magistrate ruled Friday.
U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero dismissed the parents’ claims against the city of San Francisco, which had released Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez from custody less than three months before the shooting without notifying immigration authorities. But Spero said the parents may be able to prove that the federal government was at fault for Steinle’s death because its employee’s apparent carelessness led to the shooting.
“Leaving a gun loaded makes (its) capability for harm readily accessible in the same way as leaving the key in the ignition of a vehicle,” Spero said.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi ardently defended his jail’s release of a Mexican national later blamed for the slaying of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle.
He cited past rulings by California courts allowing suits for harm caused by stolen vehicles that had been left unlocked, with the key inside, in high-crime neighborhoods. The gun used to shoot Steinle was stolen from the ranger’s car on a downtown San Francisco street.
Spero added, however, that the suit might be dismissed if there is no evidence that Lopez-Sanchez stole the gun. It’s not clear how California courts, whose rulings govern the negligence issue, would decide such a case, Spero said.
Lopez-Sanchez’s lawyer has denied his client stole the gun. Lopez-Sanchez, charged with murder, has also denied intentionally shooting at Steinle.
Spero dismissed the rest of the suit filed by Steinle’s parents, Jim Steinle and Elizabeth Sullivan. He rejected their claims that the city was legally responsible for releasing Lopez-Sanchez without contacting the federal government and that federal immigration officials, who had known the city was holding him, had a duty to pick him up and deport him. The parents could appeal those rulings.
Lopez-Sanchez had been deported to his native Mexico five times and had just spent 46 months in federal prison for illegal re-entry when federal officials turned him over to San Francisco in March 2015 to face an old marijuana charge. City prosecutors dropped the charge, and the office of then-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi released Lopez-Sanchez, disregarding immigration officials’ request to hold him until they could pick him up.
Mirkarimi cited San Francisco’s sanctuary city ordinance, which allows local officers to ignore such requests by federal agencies. Ten weeks later, Steinle, 32, was shot to death as she walked with her father along Pier 14.
Her parents sued in May, saying that Mirkarimi had been acting on his own because the ordinance did not prohibit communication with federal officials. They also contended the city violated a federal law that prohibits state and local restrictions on informing the government about someone’s immigration status.
Spero said neither the sanctuary ordinance nor federal law required Mirkarimi to notify the government about Lopez-Sanchez. He also said federal officials had already known that Lopez-Sanchez was undocumented and in San Francisco custody.
The parents’ lawyers also argued that San Francisco had endangered Steinle, and the rest of the public, by releasing Lopez-Sanchez and should be held responsible for her death. But Spero said numerous courts have ruled that a government agency is not responsible for harm caused by a released inmate unless it has reason to know the inmate posed a specific threat to the eventual victim.
“Nothing in this case distinguished Steinle from the general public” when Lopez-Sanchez was released, Spero said. He said a contrary ruling “would subject virtually any decision by policymakers in the field of public safety … to post-hoc second-guessing.”