[Vision2020] Supreme Court won't hear Boise homeless appeal

Ron Force ronforce at gmail.com
Mon Dec 16 09:28:55 PST 2019

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said on Monday that it would not hear a
closely watched case on whether cities can make it a crime for homeless
people to sleep outdoors.

The case was brought by six people in Boise, Idaho, who said a pair of
local laws violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual
punishment. One prohibited “camping” in streets, parks and other public
property. The other prohibited “lodging or sleeping” in any place, whether
public or private, without the owner’s permission.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled for the plaintiffs
<https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2018/09/04/15-35845.pdf> and
struck down the laws, saying the Constitution does not allow prosecuting
people for sleeping outdoors if there is no shelter available.

The Supreme Court typically understands the Eighth Amendment to address
acceptable punishments rather than what conduct can be made criminal. But
in 1962, it struck down
<https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/370/660> a California law
that made being a drug addict a crime on Eighth Amendment grounds.
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Relying on that decision and quoting from an earlier Ninth Circuit ruling
<https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-9th-circuit/1490887.html>, Judge Marsha
Berzon <https://www.fjc.gov/history/judges/berzon-marsha-siegel>, writing
for the panel, said “the Eighth Amendment prohibits the state from
punishing an involuntary act or condition if it is the unavoidable
consequence of one’s status or being.”

“As long as there is no option of sleeping indoors,” Judge Berzon wrote,
“the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping
outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the


Ron Force
Moscow Idaho USA
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