Homeless Camping Hearing Denied

A court case that has changed the way law enforcement agencies deal with homeless people may be headed for the Supreme Court.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Monday that it will not rehear the case of Martin v. City of Boise, on which it ruled Sept. 4. The city of Boise, Idaho, was sued by six people who were or are homeless. They argued that anti-camping laws were unconstitutional and that citations and forced evictions from public property amounted to cruel and unusual punishments because they had no place else to go.

After litigation began in 2014, Boise amended its ordinances to prohibit enforcement of anti-camping laws if there was no shelter for homeless men and women to go to. In the Sept. 4 order, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court held that the “cruel and unusual punishments” clause of the Eighth Amendment precluded the enforcement of a statute that prohibited sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to shelter.

Boise petitioned the 9th Circuit for a rehearing in front of the full court — 11 jurists selected from among the 29 circuit court judges in Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — which was denied Monday with prejudice, meaning that no further hearing on the matter would even be considered.

Not every 9th Circuit judge agreed with that decision. In a dissenting opinion released Monday, Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote that the three judges in September “badly misconstrued” three areas of Supreme Court precedent, adding that “the panel’s reasoning will soon prevent local governments from enforcing a host of other public health and safety laws, such as those prohibiting public defecation and urination. Perhaps most unfortunately, the panel’s opinion shackles the hands of public officials trying to redress the serious societal concern of homelessness.”

The September ruling has already changed the way the City of Santa Cruz and County of Santa Cruz enforce some local camping laws. Santa Cruz City Council Member Drew Glover said, “The progressive majority on our council is taking a more compassionate approach to people experiencing homelessness. We should have adequate shelter space regardless of the Boise vs Martin ruling.” The Press Banner contacted the Sheriff’s Department and Police Department. County of Santa Cruz and City of Scotts Valley but had not received a response by press time.

The only legal recourse left to the city of Boise is appeal to the Supreme Court. Published reports from Idaho suggest that the city is trying to figure out how to proceed.

Contact the Press Banner at pbeditor@pressbanner.com or 831-438-2500.

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