Supreme Court Rules City Camping Ban Targeting Homelessness Is Not ‘Cruel And Unusual Punishment’

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The Supreme Court upheld an Oregon city’s ban on camping on public property.

In City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, the Supreme Court held 6-3 that “the enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property does not constitute ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.” The case stems from a ban on camping or sleeping on public property instituted by the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, in an effort to address homelessness, which presses violators with starting fines of $295.

The Ninth Circuit previously held in Martin v. City of Boise that anti-camping ordinances violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment” when they impose penalties on homeless individuals with nowhere else to go. (RELATED: Supreme Court Agrees To Take Up Red State Ban On Child Sex Change Procedures)


A pedestrian walks past an encampment of tents after crossing Hoyt Street in Portland, Oregon on January 24, 2024. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

The appeals court rejected the Grants Pass law on the same basis, holding that the Eighth Amendment prevents the city from enforcing its law against homeless individuals for “the mere act of sleeping outside with rudimentary protection from the elements, or for sleeping in their car at night, when there is no other place in the City for them to go.”

“Yes, people will disagree over which policy responses are best; they may experiment with one set of approaches only to find later another set works better; they may find certain responses more appropriate for some communities than others,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority ruling. “But in our democracy, that is their right.”

“The Constitution’s Eighth Amendment serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American people and in their place dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy,” Gorsuch continued.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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