Tech mogul Elon Musk has called for a boycott of global law firm Latham & Watkins for providing legal support to a San Francisco nonprofit that’s suing the city over the rights of homeless people.
The lawsuit, brought by a local advocacy nonprofit called the Coalition on Homelessness, alleges the city has broken federal law by displacing homeless people and destroying their property without providing them shelter beds.
Latham & Watkins LLP is working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area on behalf of the coalition in the case, which resulted in a preliminary injunction in December that restricted the city from enforcing laws against lodging on the street.
Musk, who owns X Corp (formerly Twitter) and runs Tesla and SpaceX, joined Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan, who demanded the law firm resign from the case following a controversial hearing that featured dueling rallies outside a federal courthouse last Wednesday.
“Let’s ask our companies to cease all work with @lathamwatkins,” Musk tweeted in reply to Tan on Friday.
“They want war? Let’s give it to them. We cannot let these snakes win or San Francisco will end up like Detroit,” Musk tweeted in a separate reply to Tan on Saturday.
Latham & Watkins didn’t respond to a request for comment by publication time.
The law firm has a track record in homelessness-related litigation. In coordination with the National Homelessness Law Center, Latham & Watkins and Idaho Legal Aid Services brought the seminal Martin vs. Boise case that laid the groundwork for the Coalition on Homelessness' lawsuit against San Francisco.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu’s December injunction prohibited the city from enforcing specific laws and ordinances related to sitting, sleeping or lying on public property, sparking an outcry from city officials who alleged it would hamper the city’s progress on the issue.
City Attorney David Chiu’s office appealed the ruling, arguing that it put the city in an “impossible situation” and that it conflicted with a previous ruling that required the city to clear encampments in the Tenderloin.
Homeless advocates counter that the city’s displacement of homeless people makes it harder for them to escape homelessness and the ruling doesn’t affect the city’s ability to conduct outreach or enforce other laws.
The city has 3,096 shelter beds that are capped between 90% and 95% occupancy to make room for emergency admissions from hospitals and jails. There were 462 people on a waiting list for shelter as of Monday morning.
David Sjostedt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org