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0642, 01 Jul 24

SCOTUS Rejects Judicial Overreach on Homelessness

Another great, if obvious, ruling.

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld ordinances in a southwest Oregon city that prohibit people who are homeless from using blankets, pillows, or cardboard boxes for protection from the elements while sleeping within the city limits. By a vote of 6-3, the justices agreed with the city, Grants Pass, that the ordinances simply bar camping on public property by everyone and do not violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.


Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch contended that the Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment, “serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges” to “dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy.” Instead, he suggested, such a task should fall to the American people.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, in an opinion joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. She argued that the majority’s ruling “focuses almost exclusively on the needs of local government and leaves the most vulnerable in our society with an impossible choice: Either stay awake or be arrested.”

If the activists were successful in using the 8th Amendment to negate simple loitering ordinances, then the reach of the 8th would have been almost limitless. It is good to see this court affirm the appropriate role of the court and have a strong deference to leaving public policy in the hands of elected officials – as it should be.


0642, 01 July 2024


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