US Supreme Court ruling won’t impact Missoula’s homeless ordinance – KPAX

US Supreme Court ruling won't impact Missoula's homeless ordinance - KPAX

Missoula Mayor Says Supreme Court Ruling Will Not Affect City’s Homelessness Ordinance

On June 28, 2019, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Grants Pass v. Johnson. The case focused on whether imposing civil penalties on homeless individuals for camping in public places was constitutional under the Eighth Amendment. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of Grants Pass, stating that the enforcement of civil penalties did not violate the Eighth Amendment.

Missoula’s Homelessness Ordinance

In light of the Supreme Court’s decision, the question arose as to how other cities and towns with homelessness ordinances would be affected. Missoula, Montana recently passed a homelessness ordinance, and Mayor Andrea Davis was quick to assure the public that the Supreme Court’s ruling would not impact the city’s own ordinance.

“The ordinance was not written in a way that expired with a decision such as today’s Supreme Court decision, for example,” Mayor Davis stated.

Montana Attorney General’s Response

Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its decision, Montana Attorney General Knudsen released a statement in response. The statement did not specifically address the Missoula ordinance, but instead focused on the broader implications of the decision.

The Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing “cruel and unusual” punishments. This prohibition applies to the states as well, through the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court has previously held that certain punishments, such as the death penalty for certain offenses, violate the Eighth Amendment.

Homelessness and Civil Penalties

In recent years, many cities and towns have passed ordinances that impose civil penalties on homeless individuals who camp or sleep in public places. The goal is often to discourage homelessness and reduce the visibility of homeless individuals in public areas.

The Grants Pass Case

In Grants Pass v. Johnson, three homeless individuals sued the city of Grants Pass over its imposition of civil penalties for camping in public places. The plaintiffs argued that such penalties violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court ultimately disagreed, ruling that these penalties did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Impact on Homelessness Ordinances

The Supreme Court’s decision has implications for other cities and towns with similar ordinances. While Missoula is confident that its own ordinance is not impacted by the decision, other areas may need to review their own laws and make changes as needed.

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