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U.S. Supreme Court ruling won't impact Missoula's homeless ordinance

Missoula Mayor Andrea Davis says Friday's Supreme Court ruling will not affect the city's ordinance
Justices won't reexamine legal doctrine that shields law enforcement
Posted at 4:00 PM, Jun 28, 2024

MISSOULA — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Oregon town of Grants Pass in the case of Grants Pass v. Johnson on Friday, June 28.

The case centered around civil penalties for individuals experiencing homelessness and where they can and cannot stay outside.

Grants Pass had imposed penalties for people who camped outside in public places, which the plaintiffs in the case — three homeless individuals — argued was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment of not allowing “cruel or unusual punishment”.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-to-3 along ideological lines that enforcement of civil penalties for those who camp in public places did in fact not go against the Eighth Amendment.

The ruling seems to line up with the Missoula City Council's recent passing of a homelessness ordinance. Mayor Andrea Davis stated that this ruling will not affect the ordinance, however.

“The ordinance was not written in a way that expired with a decision such as today’s Supreme Court decision for example," Davis said.

Missoula Mayor Andrea Davis discusses local impact of U.S. Supreme Court ruling

While the impacts of this decision may not directly affect the new city ordinance, the question of how other areas will feel this ruling still remains.

Montana Attorney General Knudsen released the following statement in response to the decision:

“This is a huge win for cities across Montana that are suffering from unsafe public spaces. For too long local governments have been unable to address the rampant homeless camps and their side effects in communities across the state because their hands were tied. Cities like Bozeman and Missoula can’t hide behind the lower court’s flawed decision any longer. Now, they can enforce the laws that stop Montana streets from becoming camps for the homeless.”