Supreme Court Rules Homeless Do Not Have Right to Camp in Public Places 

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Supreme Court Rules Homeless Do Not Have Right to Camp in Public Places 

WASHINGTON- The Supreme Court has rejected a Constitutional challenge to anti-camping laws that allow cities to ban homeless transients from taking over public spaces with entire camps. The previous rulings severely prevented local governments from taking action to stop such homeless encampments, essentially allowing small groups of individuals to hold entire cities hostage like Stockton, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Any cities failing to act now would be purely by their lack of action. 

The decision against CITY OF GRANTS PASS, OREGON v. JOHNSON ET AL was made by a 6-3 ruling, along liberal/conservative lines. In doing so the Supreme Court confirmed that  homelessness is not a status protected by the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment”, regardless if a city offers access to indoor shelter or not. 

Court opinion: 

“Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it. At bottom, the question this case presents is whether the Eighth Amendment grants federal judges primary responsibility for assessing those causes and devising those re-sponses. It does not.” 

“Yes, people will disagree over which policy responses are best; they may experiment with one set of approaches only to find later another set works better; they may find certain responses more appropriate for some communities than others. But in our democracy, that is their right. Nor can a handful of federal judges begin to “match” the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding “how best to handle” a pressing social question like homelessness. Robinson, 370 U.S., at 689 (White, J., dissenting). 

Constitution’s Eighth Amendment serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American people and in their place dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy.

The judgment below is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.”

To read the full judgment click here

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