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Posted on: October 21, 2019

Lake Forest Joins Legal Brief Asking for Review of Anti-Camping Ruling

Lake Forest is one of seven South Orange County cities that filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of the US Supreme Court taking up a Boise ruling that prohibits cities from enforcing anti-camping ordinances unless homeless shelter beds are available.

Boise formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider its appeal in the case of Martin v. Boise, which resulted in The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in September that prosecuting people for sleeping in public spaces violates the Eighth Amendment and amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

That ruling impacts California and eight other western states and has led to growing frustrating among City leaders and residents limited in approaching the homelessness issue.

Attorneys for Jones Day, who filed the brief on behalf of the South OC cities, pointed out several ambiguities and inconsistencies in the ruling that make it difficult – if not impossible – to develop a comprehensive homelessness policy.

Among them:

  • The Martin v. Boise ruling failed to define what constitutes “shelter,” or even where shelter must be available. “If the shelter must be located in the jurisdiction that is attempting to enforce the ordinance, then even small towns may suddenly be charged with maintaining a substantial stock of shelter beds,” the cities’ brief says.
  • Also undefined is how to measure whether shelter is available. “But calculating the number of homeless individuals is prohibitively difficult. Nor is it straightforward to monitor the number of available shelter beds, especially given that some shelters are privately run, and not all shelter beds are available to all homeless individuals,” according to the brief.
  • The attorneys for the cities also said the same logic used in the Boise ruling could stretch to other ordinances, such as laws that prohibit obstructing traffic, lighting fires or building structures on public land.

“Ultimately, what all of these problems illustrate is that the (Appellate Court) panel’s approach to this matter is profoundly mistaken,” the cities’ attorneys wrote. “A particular homeless individual’s inability to comply with the law should be addressed in that individual’s criminal proceeding … attempting to solve the problem wholesale via broad pre-enforcement injunctions inevitably begets precisely the confusion that the decision … has already caused.”

The other cities joining Lake Forest in the effort are Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

The City is holding "Lake Forest Listens: Homelessness" from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on October 29 to allow residents to learn about the issue and share their thoughts. The event is at the Lake Forest Sports Park and Recreation Center.  

Click here to read the full brief
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