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Judge Rules Death by Immigrant Not a Valid Suit Against City of San Francisco

Judge Rules Death by Immigrant Not a Valid Suit Against City of San Francisco

Negligence complaint can move forward

In 2015, Kathryn Steinle was murdered by Francisco Sanchez, a Mexican citizen and illegal immigrant who had been deported five times prior to killing Steinle.

Steinle was shot and killed while walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14.

“We have been and always will be a city of refuge, a city of sanctuary, a city of love…We promise to be a city that’s always welcoming. There are no walls in our city!” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, confirmed the city’s sanctuary status.

Following her death, Steinle’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the city of San Francisco.

A federal judge determined a city cannot be held responsible for the actions of an individual, even if that individual was released from the city’s custody, against the advisement of federal immigration officials:

San Francisco cannot be held liable for a slaying by a man who was in the country illegally and had been released by sheriff’s officials despite a request by immigration officials to keep him behind bars, a federal judge said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero dismissed wrongful death claims filed by the family of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle against the city and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. The judge, however, allowed a negligence claim against the federal government to move forward.

The man charged with murder in the July 2015 slaying, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, was a repeat drug offender who was transferred to the city jail to face a marijuana sales charge after he completed a federal prison sentence for illegally reentering the country. The district attorney dropped charges, and the sheriff’s department released Lopez-Sanchez three months before Steinle’s death, ignoring a request by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to keep him behind bars.

San Francisco’s so-called “sanctuary policy” bars city employees from cooperating with federal immigration officials in deportation efforts.

Mirkarimi cited the law in a 2015 memo to deputies that prohibited them from providing certain information to federal immigration authorities, including the date an inmate is released, according to Spero’s ruling. In their lawsuit, Steinle’s family cited a statement by immigration authorities that Lopez-Sanchez would have been deported and Steinle’s death prevented if sheriff’s officials had notified them about his pending release.

Spero said in his ruling on Friday that neither the state nor federal law cited in the lawsuit prevents the sheriff from restricting his deputies’ communications with immigration officials about an inmate’s release date.

Frank Pitre, an attorney for the Steinle family, said he was evaluating the best course forward.

San Francisco might get off scot-free, but Spero permitted the negligence claim to move forward. The gun used to murder Steinle was “carelessly” left in a vehicle by a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger and was then stolen. It was loaded when Sanchez found it, though it’s unclear if there’s evidence proving Sanchez stole the weapon:

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.

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.

San Francisco who welcomes repeat felons is off the hook, but a ranger who left his weapon in the car is to blame? The world has truly gone mad.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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The left wonders why the lost control of the government!

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to mailman. | January 10, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    No, they don’t. They don’t wonder at all. Things work more and more to their liking through their manipulations every year. That may change in a couple weeks, but I’m not holding my breath as to what, if any, level Trump will follow through on his promises.

“A city of love” for whom, Mayor Lee?

Certainly not for your citizens, who are continually victimized by the violent illegal aliens you welcome into your city and protect from law enforcement.

Where was your love for Kate Steinle, or for any of the other citizens who have been murdered, raped, assaulted, etc., by the criminal illegal aliens you are so eager to welcome?

Spero said in his ruling on Friday that neither the state nor federal law cited in the lawsuit prevents the sheriff from restricting his deputies’ communications with immigration officials about an inmate’s release date

This could be fixed on Jan 21. Then every Santuary city could be held liable.

    Milhouse in reply to Andy. | January 10, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    No, it can’t. The tenth amendment prevents any federal law from restricting the sheriff’s right to issue such an order. A state law could do so, but CA is clearly not going to make such a law.

      maxmillion in reply to Milhouse. | January 10, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      Nah. When it comes top anything related to immigration federal power is plenary. Law school 101.

        Milhouse in reply to maxmillion. | January 10, 2017 at 6:46 pm

        Um, plenary power doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does. Plenary power means SF can’t enforce immigration law without federal permission, not that it has to do so if the feds demand it. No state, nor any subsidiary of a state, ever has to enforce federal law if it doesn’t want to. That’s the feds’ job.

          Part right, part wrong:

          (1) State officials need not enforce federal laws that the state has determined to be unconstitutional; nor may Congress mandate that states enact specific laws. But (2), states may not block federal authorities who attempt to enforce a federal law unless a court has held that the law is unconstitutional. And (3), individuals are not exempt from prosecution by the federal government just because the state where they reside has legalized an activity or pronounced that a federal law is unconstitutional; if convicted, individuals can attempt to vindicate their constitutional rights in court.

          Thus, aiding and abetting illegal aliens is a crime that could be prosecuted by the feds.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | January 12, 2017 at 5:34 pm

          What part of what I wrote did you contradict?

          actually what you wrote is part wrong: State officials need not enforce federal laws ever. It’s got nothing to do with whether the state thinks they’re unconstitutional. State officials can openly say, “sure, that law is constitutional, but we don’t want to enforce it, so we won’t”, and that is their right. For instance, nobody claimed Prohibition was unconstitutional, for the obvious reason that it was right there in the constitution. Nor did anyone claim the fugitive slave laws were unconstitutional; again, the constitution explicitly authorised them. But state and local authorities refused to enforce them, or to cooperate with feds who sought to enforce them, simply because they didn’t want to. and the tenth amendment protected their right to do so.

          Indeed, states may not block federal authorities who attempt to enforce a federal law, and no “sanctuary” tries to do so, so your statement, while true, is irrelevant.

          Your claim that “aiding and abetting illegal aliens is a crime that could be prosecuted by the feds” is only tenable if you define the term very narrowly. Failure to help the feds catch them is not “aiding and abetting”, or if it is then it is not a crime and cannot be prosecuted.

This ruling is infuriating. I hope the family pursues this up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

    sidebar in reply to rabidfox. | January 10, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Unfortunately while frustrating the judge may be correct on the law. However, this sanctuary city nonsense can go away expeditiously after President Trump takes office.

      Milhouse in reply to sidebar. | January 10, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      No, it can’t. Not without a constitutional amendment. “Sanctuary cities” are simply the latest example of local authorities exercising their tenth amendment right not to work for the federal government. It’s exactly the same as the sheriffs who refused to cooperate with the Brady law, and the cities that refused to enforce Prohibition, and all those who refused to enforce the Fugitive Slave laws.

The same thing happened when an SF illegal alien gunned down a father and his sons.

The ruling makes perfect sense. SF released this guy because his term was up. That’s what you do with prisoners who’ve served their terms. You don’t keep them indefinitely just because they might offend again. That the feds wanted to pick him up is irrelevant; SF had no duty to enforce a federal warrant, or to help the feds enforce it. So it breached no duty to the Steinles in letting him go. The ranger, on the other hand, had a clear legal duty to keep his weapon secure, and he failed in that duty.

    rokiloki in reply to Milhouse. | January 10, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    Being in the country illegally means he was committing on-going criminal activity. Does the city not have the duty to prevent this on-going activity either by imprisoning him or turning him over to the proper authorities to stop the activity? Particularly when that on-going criminal activity is a threat to society and a danger to individuals?

    I agree with you in regard to prisoners who have served their time and are now legally existing within their community. But we are talking about someone who is violating the law by being there.

      Milhouse in reply to rokiloki. | January 11, 2017 at 1:42 am

      (a) Being in the country illegally is not a crime.
      (b) Even if it were, no, the city has no duty to prevent it. How many times do you have to be told that cities do not work for the federal government, and thus do not have to enforce federal laws. It’s not their job, and they don’t have to volunteer for it.
      (c) Even if being in the country illegally were a crime, it would not be a threat or a danger to anyone.
      (d) Once again, federal law enforcement is none of the SF sheriff’s business. He had served his time, he was released. End of story. If the feds wanted him that was their problem.

        Aarradin in reply to Milhouse. | January 11, 2017 at 4:16 am

        “Being in the country illegally is not a crime”

        In fact, it is. It is a felony, punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.

        Here is the statute:


This would make sense of the city were doing everything in its power to enforce the law and somehow managed to miss an illegal alien that then committed murder.

That’s not the case.

San Francisco is deliberately refusing to obey federal laws requiring them to hold illegal aliens that ICE wants to deport. They are doing so despite being fully aware of the extreme risk of violent crimes from illegal aliens in general (some 40% of federal prosecutions for violent crimes have illegal aliens as defendants).

That’s the whole point of their “sanctuary” policy: They have openly declared that they are refusing to obey Federal, as well as State, immigration laws within the jurisdiction of their city.

    Milhouse in reply to Aarradin. | January 12, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    There are no such laws, and cannot be such laws, because the constitution forbids them. San Francisco has no duty to enforce federal law, or to hold anyone for the feds, and Congress has no authority to impose such a duty on it. You are simply a liar, making up laws that don’t exist, because you want them to.

    and no, there is no “extreme risk of violent crimes from illegal aliens in general”. “Some 40% of federal prosecutions for violent crimes have illegal aliens as defendants” is yet another f*cking lie that you made up because you are a lying liar who lies.