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U.S. Supreme Court session could end without decision on city camping bans

The bans impact unhoused people sleeping in public
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Posted at 9:49 AM, Jun 27, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Before the United States Supreme Court session wraps, city leaders across the country including in Colorado were hoping to get a decision to a key case that could answer the question: Do homeless camping bans equate to cruel and unusual punishment, essentially violating the Eighth Amendment?

The bans prevent people who are unhoused from sleeping or setting up camps in public spaces.

“I think it's going to come down to how the Supreme Court applies the Eighth Amendment,” Metropolitan State University of Denver assistant professor Jeff Peshut said.

In April, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a class action lawsuit brought forth by a group of people experiencing homelessness against the city of Grants Pass, Oregon. Grants Pass bans people from using pillows and or blankets while sleeping in public places.

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Denver camping ban could be impacted as U.S. Supreme Court takes up case

Claire Lavezzorio
8:44 AM, Apr 22, 2024

"If you look at the oral questions they asked during oral arguments, a lot of them had to do with the individual circumstances of each particular case. And so I think what they could do here is decertify the class, and rather than ruling on the issue of…is camping in public,a status or an act? They might say, it depends on the individual circumstances of the particular case," Peshut said.

If the class is decertified, Peshut said the courts could decide each case on an individual basis.

“So, for instance, if someone's camping and there's shelters, if there's shelter beds available, they may say ‘you have alternatives, and therefore it's not cruel and unusual punishment for me to fine you for camping in a public place’,” Peshut said.

The Supreme Court's current term ends Friday and will resume in October, so a decision on camping bans likely won’t come until fall.

Other decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court this session:

U.S. Supreme Court session could end without decision on city camping bans

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