Via – The LA Times

The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear a major case on homelessness, letting stand a ruling that protects homeless people’s right to sleep on the sidewalk or in public parks if no other shelter is available.

The justices without comment or a dissent said that they would not hear the case from Boise, Idaho, which challenged a ruling by a federal appeals court.

The outcome was a significant victory for homeless activists and a setback for city officials in California and other Western states who argued the ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals undercut their authority to regulate encampments on the sidewalks. The 9th Circuit had agreed with lawyers for the homeless who argued that prosecuting people for sleeping on the sidewalks violated the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment if a city failed to provide adequate shelter.

A city ordinance “violates the 8th Amendment insofar as it imposes criminal sanctions against homeless individuals for sleeping outdoors on public property, when no alternative shelter is available to them,” said the ruling by the 9th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over California and eight other Western states.

The Supreme Court did not explain its decision to turn down the appeal — the justices usually do not do so — but they may have thought the dispute was moot. Lawyers for the homeless pointed out that in 2014, Boise announced its police “shall not enforce” its misdemeanor ordinances against sleeping or camping in public when no shelter space is available. The city thought this would end the litigation, but the 9th Circuit proceeded to issue a broad ruling last year.

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