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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


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(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:

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[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.

People of all ages suffer from homelessness and many are in need of the services the City provides to help them get on a different path. Long Beach is making tremendous strides to better provide assistance to such individuals, but without the ability to effectively address issues of public camping the City will be expected to shoulder an unrealistic burden that harms our ability to help people experiencing homelessness, maintain our public spaces in a way that allows for use by all people equally, and prevent public health and safety dangers which are commonly found in, or originating from, encampment areas...

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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."

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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 5-1 Council vote (Uranga dissenting, Pearce exiting before the vote, Richardson absent for the entire meeting) to send a "letter" supporting the County's legal brief.

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.

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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.

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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.

Sep 20 2019Brief amicus curiae of Brentwood Community Council filed.
Sep 20 2019Amicus brief of Criminal Justice Legal Foundation submitted.
Sep 23 2019Brief amicus curiae of The Downtown Denver Partnership filed.
Sep 24 2019Amicus brief of Amici Curiae States of Idaho, Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas not accepted for filing. (September 24, 2019 -- Corrected version to be submitted)
Sep 24 2019Brief amici curiae of Amici Curiae California State Association of Counties and 33 California Counties and Cities filed.
Sep 24 2019Amicus brief of City of Aberdeen, Washington submitted.
Sep 24 2019Amicus brief of Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Inc. submitted.
Sep 24 2019Amicus brief of Amici Curiae States of Idaho, Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas submitted.
Sep 25 2019Brief amicus curiae of Stephen Eide filed.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of League of Oregon Cities submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of The People Concern and Weingart Center Association submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of California State Sheriffs' Association, California Police Chiefs Association, and California Peace Officers' Association submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of Venice Stakeholders Association submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of Seven Cities in Orange County submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of International Municipal Lawyers Association, et al. submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of Building Owners and Managers Association of Oregon submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of City of Los Angeles submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of MARYROSE COURTNEY AND KETCHUM-DOWNTOWN YMCA submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of Amici Curiae International Downtown Association, California Downtown Association, Central City East Association of Los Angeles, Hollywood Property Owners’ Alliance, Historic Core Business Improvement District Property Owners Association, and Downtown Property Owners Association submitted.
Sep 25 2019Amicus brief of Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence submitted.

Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.


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