A couple of years ago, a lawsuit was brought against the City of Los Angeles brought by Matt Dowd, Zuma Dogg, Tony B. Conscious, boardwalk piano player “Pino” and four other relatively unknown musicians. Why do you ask? Well, they petitioned that their civil rights were violated when the City restricted them to having amplified sound in specific vending spaces only, an offense that if violated could have resulted in a misdemeanor ticket. This, however, was only part of a larger suit against the City for numerous causes of action related to Venice Beach and conduct within the City Council chambers. And if you spend time at the beach, I’m sure you have heard a couple of these folks continuously tell people how they were going to take the City’s purse and run for violating their civil rights.
In an earlier ruling, a judge decided that amplified sound, and the lottery system for allocating spaces, was a civil rights violation, and imposed an injunction against any enforcement by the LAPD. The City, however, felt that there was no cause of action and submitted a request for summary judgment. The court agreed and knocked out all issues in the original complaint, except the amplified sound restrictions and the conduct of two plaintiffs while in City Council chambers. Last week’s trial stemming from that suit was to determine if any damages should be awarded to the petitioners over those two remaining issues.
One of the petitioners, Tony B. Conscious had his book that he wrote about “How To Vend At Venice Beach” used against him in court, in which he referred to his co-complaintants as “scheisters”. His claims to how much he earned on the stand were also successfully challenged and his testimony overall was seen as a detriment to the case. After a week of testimony, including that of a supervisor from the Department of Recreation and Parks, and a former LAPD Sergeant, now a Lieutenant in Hollywood, who was in charge of the Venice Beach detail for 3 years, both of whom testified as expert witnesses, the jury was given the case to deliberate. The original complaint asked for compensation in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars, claiming that the petitioners were restricted to a small amount of spaces to perform, even though they had dozens of spaces to choose from, and after the 2010 court injunction, had free reign to perform anywhere along the boardwalk. And that because of fear of getting ticketed by the LAPD, their ability to earn income was hampered. In addition, they sought monetary damages for being thrown out of City Council chambers.
While people often sue municipalities for huge sums of money for civil rights violations, jury awards in such cases typically involve bodily injury, gross discrimination, and/or proof of significant damage to one’s ability to seek work or earn income. Apparently, although the judge did agree that they were allowed to perform with amplified sound in any Venice Beach vending space and that they can cuss out the City Council, the jury did not believe that any monetary damages were warranted. During closing arguments, the petitioners attorney brought the request for damages down to $80,000 – possibly reflecting a weak case or possibly as a strategy to get some reasonable compensation granted which was much lower than the original filed request. The sum of $1 dollar was awarded to the group of 8 over the amplified sound issue, and $1 was awarded to Dogg/Dowd for the issues stemming from being continuously tossed out of City Council meetings. So, the total amount the City will have to pay out to the plaintiff’s is a whopping $10 bucks.
Zuma Dogg who has chronicled a myriad of injustices imposed by The City of LA, and who has been pivotal in implementing change has yet to receive anything beyond a moral victory for fighting such issues… which he continues to tweet about here. Sorry Zuum. 🙁
I think the only pending lawsuit against The City may be one filed by Michael Hunt who continues to vend illegal materials on Venice Beach, for being tossed out of a meeting regarding the vending ordinance changes. Not looking too fantastic for him.