U.S. Supreme Court (Four Of Nine Justices) Refuses Review Of 9th Cir. Boise Opinion, Will Continue To Prevent LB And Cities In CA & Western States From Enforcing Local Laws Prohibiting Sleeping/Camping On Public Property ("Cruel and Unusual Punishment") Unless City Offers Sufficient Housing/Shelter beds For All Homeless/Vagrants w/in City Limits
|(December 16, 2019) -- Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned aside legal pleas filed by multiple cities -- not including the City of Long Beach (details below) -- and declined to review (meaning four of the Court's nine Justices declined to vote to review) the 9th Circuit opinion in Martin v. City of Boise which will now continue to prevent cities in CA and several western states from enforcing locally enacted laws punishing sleeping/camping on public property. The Boise:opinion holds that it's "cruel and unusual punishment" under U.S. Constitution to impose such penalties unless the city has [can effectively prove if challenged] sufficient available housing/shelter beds for all homeless vagrants within its jurisdiction.
The City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles and multiple CA cities (listed below) filed "friend of Court" briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Boise opinion...but the City of Long Beach wasn't among them. For reasons that remain publicly unclear, the City somehow let the filing deadline pass without acting.
LB City Councilwoman Suzie Price moved to do the next best thing; she agendized an item for LB City Council action seeking a Council voted policy-setting resolution supporting L.A. County's decision (on a 3-2 Board of Supervisors vote, Hahn voting "yes") seeking U.S. Supreme Court review to overturn the Boise opinion.
In presenting the Oct 1 Council item, Councilwoman Price framed the issue as supporting the right of the City to enforce its local anti-camping ordinances with health and safety impacts. In her agendizing memo, she wrote:
[Scroll down for further.]
[Oct.1 agendizing memo text] ...[The Martin opinion] severely limits our ability to address issues of homelessness and the appropriate protections of the rights held by everyone to access public spaces. The City needs to have the ability to appropriately regulate public camping and enforce our City ordinances with the objective of protecting everyone equally and maintaining public health standards.
Councilman Rex Richardson argued against Price's motion. He said Martin v. City of Boise doesn't flatly prevent enforcement of local laws but rather ties them local enforcement to the availability of shelter beds. Councilman Richardson sought to reframe the issue as a matter of providing local shelter/housing capacity.
(Critics of the Boise opinion (multiple cities and jurisdictions) say the lower court's opinion effectively stymies their ability to enforce their laws by exposing them to potential constitutional rights lawsuits over whether they do or don't have sufficient shelter beds available for everyone needing them.)
Price's Oct. 1 motion (asking the City Attorney to draft the resolution) carried on a 4-3 vote (Yes: Price, Supernaw, Mungo, Austin; No: Pearce, Uranga, Richardson)...with Councilman Roberto Uranga -- who'd co-agendized the Oct. 1 item with Price -- flipping his stance and voting "no."
When the resolution returned for Council voted approval on October 15, 2019, Vice Mayor/Councilman Andrews signaled that he wouldn't support it. That forced Price to scramble to make a floor-amended motion that Andrews accepted, resulting in a
The Council floor amended motion was silent on who'd sign the letter...and Mayor Garcia didn't do so. Instead, interim City Manager Tom Modica did (sending a low-visibility support letter to L.A. County.)
Mayor Garcia -- who doesn't set policy but frequently voices policy views even without Council voted concurrence -- remained silent during the entire issue, effectively avoiding having his name attached to either side in the major homeless/vagrancy impacting policy controversy.
The City of LB says its current practices with respect to homeless/vagrant individuals comply with the standrads set by the Boise opinion.
The Boise case was closely watched nationally not only for its taxpayer and policy impacts on cities (which raised public health and safety issues) but because some 9th circuit judges themselves joined in a publicly issued dissent criticizing the constitutional reasoning of their fellow 9th circuit colleagues in Boise. However a majority of the 9th circuit's judges let the three judge panel's opinion stand...and today the High Court declined to review that opinion.
Multiple cities, counties, states, municipal advocacy, business and neighborhood groups timely filed "Friend of the Court" briefs by the Sept. 25 deadline urging the Supreme Court to take up the Martin case. LBREPORT.com lists and links to their briefs below.
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