Thursday, July 4, 2024

Supreme Court Gives Cities More Power to Ban Homeless Camps; Supreme Court Allows Cities to Enforce Bans On Homeless People Sleeping Outside

AP Photo/Jenny Kane
Supreme Court gives cities more power to ban homeless camps:
The Supreme Court on Friday sided with an Oregon town’s law that bans homeless people from sleeping outdoors, a decision that holds major implications for other municipalities to do the same.
The majority 6-3 majority opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch held that the enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. The questions surrounded a ban on camping in public in Grants Pass, Oregon, and the ruling is likely to have major implications for how states such as California can regulate the homelessness crisis.
During oral arguments earlier this year, the justices were ideologically split, with the Republican-appointed majority leaning into supporting local control over homelessness issues and Democratic-appointed justices opposing the criminalization of homelessness. The case challenged whether homelessness should be protected under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
The Biden administration, siding with neither party, suggested that the laws of Grants Pass, Oregon, likely violate the Eighth Amendment but criticized the lower court’s approach.
Grants Pass attorney Theane Evangelis argued the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’s ruling against criminal penalties for public encampments was a “failed experiment” and that homelessness regulation was best left to local officials. Kelsi B. Corkran, a lawyer on behalf of the homeless plaintiffs, argued the city’s laws simply push the problem of homelessness elsewhere. --->READ MORE HERE
AP Photo/Jenny Kane
Supreme Court allows cities to enforce bans on homeless people sleeping outside:
The Supreme Court cleared the way for cities to enforce bans on homeless people sleeping outside in public places on Friday, overturning a California appeals court ruling that found such laws amount to cruel and unusual punishment when shelter space is lacking.
The case is the most significant to come before the high court in decades on the issue and comes as a rising number of people in the U.S. are without a permanent place to live.
In a 6-3 decision along ideological lines, the high court found that outdoor sleeping bans don’t violate the Eighth Amendment.
Western cities had argued that the ruling made it harder to manage outdoor encampments in public spaces, but homeless advocates said punishing people who need a place to sleep would criminalize homelessness.
In California, which is home to one-third of the country’s homeless population, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said the decision gives state and local officials authority to clear “unsafe encampments” from the streets under policies that respect fundamental human needs. “This decision removes the legal ambiguities that have tied the hands of local officials for years,” he said.
Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledged those concerns in the opinion he wrote for the majority.
“Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it,” he wrote. “A handful of federal judges cannot begin to ‘match’ the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding ‘how best to handle’ a pressing social question like homelessness.”
He suggested that people who have no choice but to sleep outdoors could raise that as a “necessity defense,” if they are ticketed or otherwise punished for violating a camping ban.
Homeless advocates, on the other hand, have said that allowing cities to punish people who need a place to sleep would ultimately make the crisis worse. Cities had been allowed to regulate encampments under a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling but couldn’t completely bar people from sleeping outdoors. --->READ MORE HERE
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