Federal Judge In Medford Homelessness Lawsuit Finds In Favor Of City

MEDFORD, Ore. — In a lawsuit filed against the city of Medford in 2021 on behalf of 6 homeless plaintiffs in respect of the city’s public camping ordinances, US District Court Judge Ann Aiken sided with Medford on all claims. The ruling of Magistrate Judge Marke Clarke from January this year was upheld, confirming the constitutionality of the ordinances.

The plaintiffs claimed their rights had been violated by the city’s laws which where and how they may camp on public property but Magistrate Clarke had found against them. Clarke also made a separate ruling in a similar but different case against the City of Grants Pass in 2020. It was this ruling that guided changes to state law regulating public camping, and the City of Medford used this to draft its ordinances.


Medford and Grants Pass Homelessness Lawsuits Are Separate Issues

While the Grants Pass lawsuit is expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court later in April, Magistrate Clarke had found that, in the case of Medford, the resolutions adopted showed the commitment of the city as well as members of the community who gave their input. In his ruling, Clarke found little use in rebuking the city’s efforts, especially since the seeds were planted recently and would, according to him, “ require time and dedication before their adequacy can be measured.”

But the ruling also referred to Grants Pass and Clarke said that unlike Grants Pass, Medford’s laws are constitutional. The magistrate also noted the commitment to assisting the homeless population in Medford.


Judge Finds Medford Ordinances To Be In Line With Constitution

In the Medford matter, the plaintiffs argued that although the city had made recent efforts to address homelessness, there was still a web of practices and ordinances that criminalized the mere existence of unhomed people.

Seeking an injunction to stop the city from enforcing camping and exclusion ordinances, the plaintiffs relied on the cruel and unusual punishment set out in the Eighth Amendment, and several paragraphs contained in the Fourteenth Amendment. Their argument was that access to shelter is currently inadequate, and the shelter rules, on issues such as curfews, make it hard for many people to use them.

None of the parties filed objections to Magistrate Clarke’s earlier findings and recommendations, and on Thursday Judge Aiken upheld his findings. Clarke had indicated that the plaintiffs did not meet the burden of demonstrating that a genuine issue of material fact existed.

Kristina Wilson,  Communications Manager of the city of Medford, said in a statement on Monday that the city is pleased with the ruling of the US District Court as it supports Medford’s comprehensive set of regulations that aspire to preserve the usability of public spaces and also respect the Eighth Amendment rights of unsheltered people. The city is pleased that its approach to the homelessness crisis meets constitutional standards.

Morning Brief Newsletter
Sign up today for our daily newsletter, a quick overview of top local stories and Oregon breaking news delivered directly to your inbox
You can unsubscribe at any time
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.