Grants Pass public camping opinion expands Martin v. Boise
from the League of Oregon Cities
On Sept. 28, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Blake v. Grants Pass, a class action matter addressing public camping. The court upheld the U.S. District Court’s prior ruling that persons experiencing homelessness are entitled to take necessary minimal measures to keep themselves warm and dry while sleeping outside.
The Ninth Circuit opined that cities violate the Eighth Amendment if they punish a person for the mere act of sleeping outside, or for sleeping in their vehicles at night when there is no other place in the city for them to go.
The Eighth Amendment states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
As a result of this ruling, this decision expands the application of Martin v. Boise —the pivotal case impacting cities’ ability to regulate public camping. The court noted that the decision in this case is narrow and that “it is ‘unconstitutional to [punish] simply sleeping somewhere in public if one has nowhere else to do so.’” It goes on to note that class actions in these types of cases are permissible.
This opinion, in most respects, affirmed what was already known from both the previous Martin and Blake cases. However, it failed to provide much anticipated clarification on several issues, such as what constitutes “necessary minimal measures” to keep warm and dry.
It is unknown at this time whether the ruling will be appealed.
LOC members may access the League’s Guide to Persons Experiencing Homelessness in Public Spaces and are encouraged to reach out to their legal counsel with concerns related to this case.
LOC also offers two upcoming “Addressing Homelessness in Public Spaces” training sessions: