Law School Case Brief
Martin v. City of Boise - 920 F.3d 584 (9th Cir. 2019)
An ordinance violates the Eighth Amendment insofar as it imposes criminal sanctions against homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors, on public property, when no alternative shelter is available to them.
Plaintiffs are six current or former residents of the City of Boise (Boise), who are homeless or have recently been homeless. Each plaintiff alleges that, between 2007 and 2009, he or she was cited by Boise police for violating one or both of two city ordinances. The first, Boise City Code § 9-10-02 (Camping Ordinance), makes it a misdemeanor to use "any of the streets, sidewalks, parks, or public places as a camping place at any time." The Camping Ordinance defines "camping" as "the use of public property as a temporary or permanent place of dwelling, lodging, or residence." The second, Boise City Code § 6-01-05 (the "Disorderly Conduct Ordinance"), bans "[o]ccupying, lodging, or sleeping in any building, structure, or public place, whether public or private . . . without the permission of the owner or person entitled to possession or in control thereof."
All plaintiffs seek retrospective relief for their previous citations under the ordinances. Two of the plaintiffs, Robert Anderson and Robert Martin, alleged that they expect to be cited under the ordinances again in the future and seek declaratory and injunctive relief against future prosecution.
Did the city ordinances violate the Eight amendment rights of the homeless residents?
The Court held that the two city ordinances -- a disorderly conduct ordinance and a camping ordinance, which criminalized sleeping outside on public property, whether bare or with a blanket or other basic bedding -- violated the Eighth Amendment insofar as it imposed criminal sanctions against homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors, on public property, when no alternative shelter was available. Although amendments to the ordinances precluded the city from enforcement when there was room available at any shelter, there was a disputed issue of material fact as to whether two plaintiffs had constitutional standing and could nonetheless be prosecuted because there was substantial record evidence that whether or not the city's homeless facilities were full, the homeless shelters refused admittance to homeless people who had exhausted the number of days allotted them.
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