A state appeals court today upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by family members who claimed the city of San Francisco’s former sanctuary policy contributed to the fatal shooting of a father and two sons.
The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court in 2009 by Danielle Bologna and her surviving son and daughter.
Bologna’s husband, grocery store supervisor Anthony Bologna, 48, and the couple’s sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16, were gunned down as they sat in their car at an intersection near their home in the Excelsior District on June 22, 2008.
Edwin Ramos, 24, of El Sobrante, a Salvadoran citizen who is alleged to be an illegal immigrant, has been accused of the murders and is slated to go on trial in June.
Ramos is suspected of being a member of the violent Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, street gang. Police have speculated the victims were mistaken for members of a rival gang.
The family’s lawsuit claimed the city was negligent in allegedly failing to report Ramos to U.S. immigration authorities for deportation despite his contacts with police for alleged drug offenses and violent crimes while a juvenile.
The former policy shielded illegal immigrant juveniles suspected of crimes from being reported to immigration officials. In July 2008, the city changed the policy and began reporting juvenile offenders.
The former sanctuary policy left Ramos “free to commit crimes on the streets of San Francisco,” the lawsuit alleged.
The family appealed to the Court of Appeal in San Francisco after Superior Court Judge Charlotte Woolard dismissed the lawsuit last year.
In today’s ruling, a three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously agreed the case didn’t fit into a narrow legal exception allowing such lawsuits against government entities.
Justice Peter Siggins wrote that state law generally protects cities from being sued for injuries unless a city violated a law specifically intended to protect against the alleged injury.
The panel said that neither a state law nor a federal law cited by the lawsuit were specifically aimed at preventing violent crimes by illegal immigrants.
The court said state law that requires the reporting of illegal immigrants arrested on drug offenses is intended to combat the drug trade, while a federal law that bans reporting restrictions is aimed at curbing illegal immigration.
“Plaintiffs identify nothing in the language or historical circumstances of (the federal law) that indicates it was designed to protect the public from violent crimes such as the tragedy that befell the Bologna family,” Siggins wrote.
The family’s lawyer, Matthew Davis, and a spokesman for the city attorney’s office were not immediately available for comment. The decision could be appealed to the California Supreme Court.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News