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Federal judge blocks Los Angeles from enforcing nearly all remaining gang injunctions

LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge barred the city of Los Angeles from enforcing nearly all of its remaining gang injunctions, according to a newspaper report on Thursday. The order by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips is the latest blow to one of the city's oldest and most controversial law enforcement initiatives, the Los Angeles Times said.

Phillips ruled that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is likely to prove that most of those subject to the remaining injunctions suffered a due process violation. The judge found the city did not give them an opportunity to challenge the civil restraining orders in court.

The decision is believed to mark the first time a judge has blocked Los Angeles officials from enforcing the injunctions, which were born from a time in the late 1980s and '90s when gang activity in the city gained national attention. Their use has been credited by law enforcement with helping reduce gang-related crime.

The use of injunctions has been under increasing scrutiny since 2016, when the ACLU and the Los Angeles Youth Justice Coalition filed a lawsuit against the city. 

Following an audit by the Los Angeles city attorney's office and the Los Angeles Police Department, 7,300 people were released last year from the conditions of the injunctions, which are civil court orders that can restrict someone from associating with friends, or even family members, in neighborhoods considered to be havens for certain street gangs. Violating the orders can result in arrest.

Since 2000, the city has enforced injunctions against 79 separate gang sets, encompassing roughly 8,900 people, according to the city attorney's office. There were about 1,450 people still subject to the orders after last year's purge, according to a February court filing from the city attorney's office.

Thursday's order prevents the city from enforcing any injunctions that were granted before Jan. 19, 2018, the newspaper said.

In a statement, Los Angeles police officials said they would wait for guidance from the city attorney's office before discussing the ruling. The city attorney's office did not immediately comment.