In September of last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it’s unconstitutional to ban sleeping on the sidewalk. This week, the Supreme Court made the final decision to reject a challenge to that ruling.
The case arose from a local ordinance in Boise, Idaho that banned “[o]ccupying, lodging, or sleeping in any building, structure, or public place, whether public or private . . . without the permission of the owner or person entitled to possession or in control thereof.”
9th circuit strikes again
Two members of the notoriously liberal 9th Circuit’s panel ruled that the law was an unconstitutional violation of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, with one also calling it “in all likelihood, pointless.”
“The crisis continued to burgeon while ordinances forbidding sleeping in public were on the books and sometimes enforced,” wrote one of the opinion’s authors, Judge Marsha Berzon.
She added that “there is no reason to believe” that overturning the law would cause the city’s homelessness problem to grow.
However, many observers have argued the opposite, contending that allowing people to sleep out in the open would only incentivize the behavior, along with other forms of unwanted conduct. California cities San Fransisco and Los Angeles both allow and condone homeless camping, and are now reaping the unwanted effects of the permissiveness.
“When Orange County cleared out a big encampment last year, it found more than 13,000 needles, 5,000 pounds of waste, including human waste, and 400 tons of debris,” conservative commentator Rich Lowery pointed out in a recent New York Post article.
“Workers at City Hall in Los Angeles have been exposed to trash and bodily fluids from nearby encampments, also responsible for a rodent-infestation at their building,” he continued. “San Francisco is notorious for needles and human feces littering its streets.”
Ruling conflicts with other circuits
What’s more, Judge Milan Smith noted in his dissenting opinion that the decision conflicts with rulings by courts in the 11th and 4th Circuits that upheld similar legislation.
“Boise’s Ordinances at issue in this case are no different: They do not criminalize the status of homelessness, but only the act of camping on public land or occupying public places without permission,” Smith wrote.
In addition to Idaho, the ruling is binding on California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii. Lowery remarked, “stopping the blight of encampments should be a lowest-common-denominator priority of public order and safety — one that the Ninth Circuit has now made more difficult.”
The Supreme Court offered no explanation for its decision.