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Injunction Over Towing, Sale of Cars Without Notice to Owners Reversed

The district court found that municipal practices of towing and selling automobiles without notice to their owners denied due process. During the litigation, the defendants changed their regulations. The district court said they "did not go far enough" and entered an injunction providing detailed procedures but did not make findings explaining why the new regulations were inadequate.

The district court failed to comply with Rule 65(d), Fed.R.Civ.P., requiring that an injunctive order "shall set forth the reasons for its issuance," and Rule 52(a), requiring special findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of an injunction. Reciting the plaintiffs' objections does not substitute for factual findings or legal analysis. The court recites homilies about federalism and quotes Lewis v. Casey, replacing in brackets references to prisons with more general terminology. Courts should give defendants a reasonable opportunity to remedy a constitutional deficiency, imposing court-devised solutions only if the state plan proves unfeasible. The district court acted with "admirable restraint" when after deciding the merits in plaintiffs' favor, it twice denied motions for a permanent injunction, giving defendants time to adopt new regulations, but its entry of a detailed injunction was appropriate only as a "last resort" (130). See: Knox v. Salinas, 193 F.3d 123 (2d Cir. 1999).

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Related legal case

Knox v. Salinas