How the Homelessness SCOTUS Case Went Yesterday

It seems like the Justices were looking for a range of options yesterday to get rid of the Grants Pass law making it illegal to camp on public property. They may not end up ruling that the law violates the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but I won’t be surprised if the law gets killed on some grounds.

Justices Jackson, Sotomayor, and Kagan seemed clearly opposed to the law in question, but take a look at these comments by conservative Justices.

Justice Kavanaugh:

But Justice Brett Kavanaugh was at least initially dubious that reversing the 9th Circuit’s decision and allowing the city to enforce its ordinances would make a difference in addressing the homelessness problem. How would your rule help, he asked Evangelis, if there are not enough beds for people experiencing homelessness? Kavanaugh returned to this point a few minutes later, asking Evangelis how sending people to jail for violating the city’s ordinances would help to address the homelessness problem if there are still no beds available when they get out. Such individuals, he observed, are “not going to be any better off than you were before.”

Justice Alito:

And Justice Samuel Alito indicated that although “status is different from conduct, … there are some instances of conduct that are closely tied to status or if homelessness is defined as simply lacking a place to stay in a particular night, they amount to the same thing.”

Also, I just have a thing to say about this:

Corkran sought to assuage the justices’ concerns about some of those line-drawing problems, emphasizing that the focus should be on “physical and legal access to shelter.” If someone who is homeless turns down a place at a shelter because of the shelter’s “no pets” policy, she conceded, they do not have an Eighth Amendment claim under the challengers’ theory.

Often, a pet is the only friend that an unhoused person has. I can understand the difficulty for homeless shelters in making room for pets, but it’s rough forcing anyone choose between their pet and committing a crime.

Court divided over constitutionality of criminal penalties for homelessness | SCOTUSblog


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Written by

Aaron Miller

Aaron Miller

Provo, UT