Boise asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear case to ban camping in public spaces

Posted at 3:41 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 19:38:56-04

BOISE, Idaho — The City of Boise wants the United States Supreme Court to review its arguments in the case to ban camping on streets, parks, and in public areas.

The appeal is a reaction to the 9th Circut Court of Appeals denying the city's attempt to get the full slate of judges to hear its case.

Since 2014, the City of Boise’s policy has been to suspend ticketing for camping in the city when there is no room in local homeless shelters. In 2018, a total of thirty citations for camping were written in Boise. In all of 2017, only six citations were written.

The City of Boise filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year to begin the process of asking the court to hear the city’s appeal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ rulings on the case Martin v. Boise.

The suit alleges the city’s ordinances that regulate camping and “disorderly conduct” violate the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.”

“(Our) filing asks the court to extend the deadline for filing the city’s writ of certiorari, which would begin the review of the case and the process for determining if the court will ultimately take it up,” said Boise City spokesman Mike Journee.

Final notification about whether the court would hear the case should not be expected until October.

“We are bringing this case forward because we must have tools to respond to the public health and safety dilemmas created by encampments,” said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter. “By working with partners to provide forward-thinking services to those experiencing homelessness –- like Housing First facilities and support of our non-profit emergency shelters –- we believe Boise is approaching this issue with thoughtful compassion. If the 9th Circuit’s rulings are allowed to stand, then no city in the country will have the tools it needs to prevent a humanitarian crisis on its own streets.”

Theane Evangelis, a partner with the Los Angeles-based law firm Gibson Dunn, will lead the team representing the city before the U.S. Supreme Court. She said that the 9th Circuit’s previous rulings conflict with U.S. Supreme Court precedent and other circuit court rulings -- and will tie the hands of local governments in their efforts to devise solutions to the complex problem of homelessness.

“The tragedy is that this decision harms the very people it purports to protect,” Evangelis said. “If local governments cannot limit public camping, they will be unable to stop the proliferation of dangerous encampments that trap the most vulnerable individuals and prevent them from seeking proper shelter and services. We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court.”

Journee said the city’s camping and disorderly conduct ordinances remain in effect until further clarification can be obtained from the courts; the previous rulings have not caused the city to change its procedures.