March 4th, 2024 2 Minute Read Public Filings by Ilya Shapiro, Tim Rosenberger, Stephen Eide, Judge Glock

Amicus Brief: City of Grants Pass v. Johnson

Grants Pass, Oregon, has municipal ordinances that restrict camping in city parks and other public areas. The city considers these laws crucial to its efforts to maintain safe and orderly public spaces. Last fall, the Ninth Circuit enjoined Grants Pass from enforcing its ordinances on the grounds that they inflict “cruel and unusual punishments” on the homeless, thus violating the Eighth Amendment. This finding was, in large part, an application of that court’s ruling four years earlier in Martin v. City of Boise.

The Supreme Court took up the case and the Manhattan Institute has filed a brief supporting Grants Pass based on the work of our scholars Stephen Eide and Judge Glock. We make the point that enforcing laws against encampments benefits both the homeless and non-homeless alike. In both Grants Pass and Martin, the Ninth Circuit asserted that its decisions are “narrow,” in the sense that they don’t expand judicial authority unduly or undermine localities’ efforts to address street homelessness. Time has proven that, regardless of any narrowness intended, the rulings have broadly hamstrung efforts to create safe and orderly communities. In their wake, localities have been left without viable tools to combat homelessness.

Indeed, in the years since the Martin decision, unsheltered homelessness has grown more rapidly in the Ninth Circuit than in the rest of the country. The rulings also expand judicial oversight over local homeless response systems, impose unsustainable financial obligations on localities, and lay the groundwork for further needless judicial entanglement with social policy. Developing a response to homelessness policy—the appropriate mix of enforcement and social programs—should be left to local legislative action, within constitutional bounds.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of Constitutional Studies at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.

Tim Rosenberger is a legal fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Stephen Eide is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal

Judge Glock is the director of research and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at City Journal

Photo: Sycikimagery/Moment via Getty Images


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