This week, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined a coalition of 20 states in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Court to grant a writ of certiorari to review the Ninth Circuit’s widely criticized decision in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, which held that the Constitution includes an individual right to sleep and camp on sidewalks, playgrounds, and other public lands. The decision has been disastrous for state and local governments, preventing them from addressing the homelessness crisis meaningfully.
The Ninth Circuit’s deeply flawed decision means that 40% of the country—comprising 65 million people and hundreds of communities—is prevented from enforcing commonplace anti-camping ordinances. This has led to unchecked public encampments, unleashing many public health and safety crises. Medieval diseases such as typhus, shigella, and trench fever are resurfacing in these encampments. Rats and fleas plague these areas, as well as nearby public buildings and homes. Encampments have led to the unsightly and unsanitary smearing of sidewalks, paths, and playgrounds with human feces, discarded needles, and other biohazards.
The coalition of Attorneys General, led by Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, called on the Supreme Court to correct the Ninth Circuit’s unprecedented decision and return power to state and local governments to address homelessness. Homelessness is a distinctly local issue, and the U.S. Constitution leaves such matters to state and local governments. State and local governments need the freedom to protect their communities from the adverse public health and safety risks of surging homelessness.
Attorneys General from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia joined the brief led by Idaho and Montana.