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Does Enforcement of Generally Applicable Laws Regulating Camping on Public Property Constitute Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Case Name: Johnson v. City of Grants Pass (9th Cir. 2023) 72 F.4th 868, cert. granted 1/12/2024
Case #: 23-175
Last Updated: January 12, 2024

In Martin v. City of Boise, 920 F.3d 584 (9th Cir. 2019), the Ninth Circuit held that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause prevents cities from enforcing criminal restrictions on public camping unless the person has “access to adequate temporary shelter.” Id. at 617 & n.8. In this case, the Ninth Circuit extended Martin to a classwide injunction prohibiting the City of Grants Pass from enforcing its public-camping ordinance even though civil citations. That decision cemented a conflict with the California Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit, which have upheld similar ordinances, and entrenched a broader split on the application of the Eighth Amendment to purportedly involuntary conduct. The Ninth Circuit nevertheless denied rehearing en banc by a 14-to-13 vote.

The question presented is:

Does the enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment?

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