July 21, 2024

OPB: Federal appeals court refuses to rehear Grants Pass homelessness case

The original 2020 decision had implications for regulating homelessness across the West.
Wednesday’s ruling stems from a decision in July 2020, when a court in Medford decided that Grants Pass’s ordinances regulating homelessness were unconstitutional, due to what they considered cruel and unusual punishment and excessive fines.

The city appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit Court, which upheld it last year in a three-judge panel. Grants Pass then requested that all the judges on the 9th Circuit Court hear the case, but on Wednesday, they voted not to.

Ed Johnson, director of litigation at the Oregon Law Center and lead attorney on the case, said he’s pleased with the court’s decision because criminalizing homelessness destabilizes people and exacerbates the problem.

“Allowing cities and counties unfettered discretion to criminalize their homeless citizens will not reduce the number of people who are forced to live outside. It will increase the number because criminalization destabilizes people who are living outside, and it makes it harder for them to connect with jobs and housing that they need in order to get inside,” he said.