Los Angeles' ordinance deeming it illegal for anyone to "sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or public way"—essentially making it a crime to be homeless—was ruled a constitutional violation today by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw cited the disputed numbers bandied about of 11,000 to 12,000 homeless people on Skid Row here in authoring the ruling. From the Times' web story:
Because there is substantial and undisputed evidence that the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles far exceeds the number of available shelter beds at all times, including on the night" the plaintiffs were arrested or cited, "Los Angeles has encroached upon" the plaintiffs' 8th Amendment protections "by criminalizing the unavoidable act of sitting, lying or sleeping at night while being involuntarily homeless," Wardlaw wrote.
Her lengthy opinion states that the Los Angeles ordinance "is one of the most restrictive municipal laws regulating public spaces in the United States. The city can secure a conviction under the ordinance against anyone who merely sits, lies or sleeps in a public way at any time of day."
She added: "Other cities' ordinances similarly directed at the homeless provide ways to avoid criminalizing the status of homelessness by making an element of the crime some conduct in combination with sitting, lying, or sleeping in a state of homelessness."
The ACLU of Southern California represents six homeless people in the case.