A federal judge yesterday prohibited Reagan administration officials from posting closure notices at a Northwest Washington homeless shelter run by the Community for Creative Non-Violence, which the government has announced it will shut down on July 10.
At an emergency hearing marked by testy exchanges between U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell and lawyers for the federal departments of Justice and of Health and Human Services, Gesell concluded that the notices, which were scheduled to be posted early yesterday, were inappropriate because a law suit challenging the closure date is pending before another federal judge.
Government lawyers had argued that they were showing "dignity" and "respect" for the approximately 700 homeless people they were trying to evict by giving them early notice of the closure.
"It's unfair to keep them in the dark," pleaded Edith Marshall, a lawyer with Health and Human Services.
Although the notices would have had no legal grounding, Florence Roisman, a lawyer for CCNV, argued that they would have the effect of "intimidating homeless people into moving back on the streets."
The building at Second and D streets NW has been the subject of a growing controversy since November, when -- two days before the presidential election -- President Reagan promised CCNV leader Mitch Snyder that he would transform the shelter into a "model facility."
On Friday, federal officials announced that they will close the shelter and announced plans to post the closure notices on Saturday.
"We think its a courtesy to let them know our plans," Marshall argued.
"I think they've already got the message," Gesell replied.
Royce Lamberth, chief of the civil division for the U.S. attorney's office, said he didn't believe Gesell's decision was "based on the law," and he said he was considering appealing the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals.