All Eyes On Monday’s Grants Pass Homeless Supreme Court Case

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Rogue Valley will come under close watch on Monday as the Supreme Court hears the Grants Pass homeless case that centers around public spaces used by people with nowhere else to go, and puts city ordinances under the spotlight to determine whether evicting homeless individuals is cruel and unusual punishment.

The plight of the homeless, the drug addiction sweeping across the U.S., the rights of city dwellers affected by homeless encampments, and city ordinances to regulate public property are the issues under consideration as legal arguments are put forward to deal with very human issues.


Grants Pass Homeless Supreme Court Case

Homelessness has increased across the U.S. and after Grants Pass increased the issue of tickets and fines, and jailing homeless people, to enforce local ordinances banning camping and sleeping in public spaces, the issue ended up in court.

Related: Grants Pass Homeless Case Respondents File Scotus Brief

In the 2018 appeals court case from Boise, Idaho, the court ruled that if no shelter beds were available, penalizing someone for sleeping outdoors was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment. In both Martin v. Boise and Grants Pass v. Johnson, cities are effectively prevented from punishing people for sleeping in public spaces when they have nowhere else to go.

After the lower courts ruled that criminalizing homeless people amounted to “cruel and unusual punishment,” a divided panel of 3 judges in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed, and the city of Grants Pass then approached the Supreme Court.


City Ordinances For “We, The People,” Including Homeless People

The Constitution of the U.S. says that the U.S. government exists to serve its citizens. The authority of “We, the people” is exercised through the people’s elected representatives and includes all people and their representatives in federal, state, and local government.

Related: Grants Pass Joins Battle To Break Legal Chain Protecting Homeless Encampments

The constitution also deals with cruel and unusual punishment, a principle that the Supreme Court will be unpacking to regulate the rights and relationships between people with opposing interests and needs, and specifically how this is addressed in cities at the local level.

As homelessness soars, cities say the case has sweeping implications. Increasingly overwhelmed by homelessness, many cities and states are hoping the Supreme Court overturns that decision, or at least limits it severely.

They argue that the ruling has crippled their efforts to address fearful constituents who say they can’t safely use public spaces littered with encampments and growing public drug use. Homeless people and their advocates contend that a ruling against them would see cities falling back on jails, rather than finding solutions such as affordable housing and social services.

Cities countrywide are paying close attention to this case, The City of San Diego has also joined the lawsuit which highlights the ferocious divisions when it comes to regulating homelessness. Grants Pass City Attorney Augustus Ogu said that the federal courts have essentially taken control away from cities to address homelessness in their unique ways. Ogu said, “It’s something that probably needs to be dealt with through the democratic process.”


Grants Pass Hearing Details

On Monday, the Supreme Court hearing will start at 10 a.m.EST, and 65 minutes have been allotted for arguments. The judges’ decision isn’t expected until June or July.

Monday will be a big day for the many stakeholders in the Rogue Valley and countrywide.

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