Supreme Court agrees to city’s petition to review Grants Pass homeless case

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Supreme Court is set to review a case in which a Grants Pass woman is suing the city, saying it’s anti-camping ordinance and criminal trespass laws violate her eighth and fourteenth amendment rights.
On Friday the high court granted the City’s petition for certiorari, or an order by which a higher court reviews a decision of a lower court, in the case of Johnson v. Grants Pass.
The court originally agreed with the woman in 2022, saying cities do violate the eighth amendment if they punish a person for sleeping outside, when there is nowhere else for them to go. The ruling ordered the city of Grants Pass to cease enforcing its ban on homeless people sleeping on public property.
In response to Friday’s decision by the Supreme Court, the lead counsel for respondents, Ed Johnson, Director of Litigation at the Oregon Law Center issued the following statement:
“The issue before the Court is whether cities can punish homeless residents simply for existing without access to shelter. This case is not about a city’s ability to regulate or prohibit encampments. That has always been permissible, is explicitly allowed under the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, and is not an issue here. Nevertheless, some politicians and others are cynically and falsely blaming the judiciary for the homelessness crisis to distract the public and defect blame for years of failed policies. The fact is the Ninth Circuit’s narrow ruling is consistent with decades of Supreme Court precedent. The U.S. Constitution does not allow cities to punish people for having an involuntary status, including the status of being involuntarily homeless. We look forward to presenting our case to the Court.”
Background on the Grants Pass case points to a 2018 ruling in which a Ninth Circuit panel ruled that a city cannot charge someone with a crime or give them a ticket for sleeping in a public space if there’s a lack of shelter beds.
In that case, called Martin v. Boise, the city then petitioned the Supreme Court asking them to review the case.
At that time, the high court declined.
Following the Ninth Circuit Court’s denial to re-hear Johnson v. Grants Pass, the city originally released the following statement, attributed to Grants Pass counsel Theane Evangelis:
“The Ninth Circuit’s decisions in this case and Martin v. Boise have contributed to the growing problem of encampments in cities across the West. These decisions are legally wrong and continue to tie the hands of local governments in their efforts to devise solutions to the complex problem of homelessness. The tragedy is that these decisions are actually harming the very people they purport to protect.”
An Oregon law passed in 2021, inspired by the Boise and Grants Pass rulings, does give cities some tools with which to proceed. A local government can, the law says, enact time, place and manner restrictions for sleeping on public property, as long as they are “objectively reasonable.”

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