U.S. Supreme Court protects key flexibility for county governments responding to homelessness

Image of LACounty-Homelessness_vidthumb.jpg

Key Takeaways

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in Grants Pass v. Johnson, a case of major significance for counties working to develop comprehensive responses to the homelessness crisis. The decision, which holds that anti-encampment ordinances do not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, is a welcome affirmation of the need for local governments to have the latitude and flexibility to respond to an entrenched policy problem without interference from the federal courts. Counties welcome this ruling, which rightly recognizes the importance of local control in the response to the complex problem of homelessness. 

  • County Nexus: Counties across the nation are grappling with how to respond to homelessness, investing funds in a wide range of evidence-based approaches while balancing our obligation to uphold public health and safety. Anti-encampment ordinances are an important policy tool for counties to address “encampments that pose significant health and safety risks” and to encourage their inhabitants to accept other alternatives like shelters, drug treatment programs, and mental-health facilities. 
  • NACo Advocacy: Many states and local governments and their representatives, including NACo, urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Ninth Circuit's decision banning the city of Grants Pass' anti-encampment ordinance. In a subsequent Local Government Legal Center (LGLC) amicus brief, NACo argued that if a ruling for the respondent would divert complex, highly localized policy decisions about how to respond to homelessness from the county legislature to the federal courts, with substantial financial implications for local governments and perverse incentives to invest public resources on temporary shelter beds rather than more permanent solutions. Underscoring the importance of our advocacy, the Majority opinion cites the LGLC brief in multiple instances. Learn more here.
  • The Court's Ruling: The decision in Grants Pass upholds key principles of federalism, recognizing the authority of county governments to develop and implement homelessness policy that responds to the needs of our communities without interference from the federal courts. Notably, this ruling overturns the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Grants Pass as well as its earlier holding in Martin v. Boise, which created unworkable conditions for western states and counties while exposing them to high volumes of litigation. 

 

2023-2024 Supreme Court Term

Fishing boat
Advocacy

U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Chevron doctrine to reshape the federal administrative state

In major ruling, U.S. Supreme Court overturns longstanding precedent deferring to federal agency interpretation of ambiguous statute.

Image of Opioid-pills_4.jpg
Advocacy

U.S. Supreme Court decision halts Purdue Pharma opioid settlement

Supreme Court ruling upends $6 billion settlement agreement between Purdue Pharma and impacted state, county and tribal governments and residents.

Image of LACounty-Homelessness_vidthumb.jpg
Advocacy

U.S. Supreme Court protects key flexibility for county governments responding to homelessness

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in Grants Pass v. Johnson, a case of major significance for counties working to develop comprehensive responses to the homelessness crisis.

Image of Courtroom.jpg
Advocacy

U.S. Supreme Court issues narrow decision in malicious prosecution case

On June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in Chiaverini v. Ohio, a case focused on the relationship between probable cause and malicious prosecution claims against local government.

Image of police.jpg
Advocacy

U.S. Supreme Court ruling may increase counties' exposure to retaliatory arrest claims

On June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curiam (unauthored) ruling in Gonzalez v. Trevino, a case with implications for retaliatory arrest claims against local law enforcement.

Image of police-car_stock_2400.jpg
Advocacy

U.S. Supreme Court ruling may increase counties' legal liability when transferring employees

New test established by the Supreme Court will allow employees demonstrating "some harm" from an unwanted transfer to file a civil rights lawsuit.

Image of Courtroom.jpg
Advocacy

Supreme Court Update: Chiaverini vs. City of Napoleon

The county perspective on a case involving malicious prosecution

Image of GettyImages-586718274.jpg
Advocacy

Supreme Court Update: Gonzalez v. Trevino

The county perspective on a case involving retaliatory arrests

Image of LACounty-Homelessness_vidthumb.jpg
Advocacy

Supreme Court Update: City of Grants Pass v. Gloria Johnson

The county perspective on a case related to the constitutionality of certain local anti-encampment ordinances 

1456277065_smaller
Advocacy

Supreme Court Update: Sheetz v. El Dorado County

The county perspective on a case involving the constitutionality of legislative enacted, generally applicable impact fees for new development

Image of police-car_stock_2400.jpg
Advocacy

Supreme Court Update: Muldrow v. St. Louis

The county perspective in a case concerning discrimination claims in lateral employment transfers

Image of smart-phones-stock.png
Advocacy

Supreme Court Update: Lindke v. Freed/O'Connor Ratcliff v. Garnier

The county perspective on a case related to public officials' use of personal social media accounts