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Ninth Circuit rules Los Angeles homeless ordinance violates Eighth Amendment

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] in a 2-1 decision [opinion, PDF; dissent, PDF] Friday ruled that a Los Angeles ordinance that subjects the homeless to arrest if they are caught "sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks" violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment found in the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution [text]. Noting that there was "substantial and undisputed evidence" that the homeless population in the city far outnumbers the number of beds available in homeless shelters in the city, the court said the disputed ordinance violated homeless people's Eighth Amendment rights "by criminalizing the unavoidable act of sitting, lying or sleeping at night while being involuntarily homeless."

The City of Los Angeles has not stated how it plans to respond to Friday's ruling. The decision could have substantial implications for how the city will deal with its growing homeless population. The Ninth Circuit opinion particularly noted that Los Angeles' Skid Row neighborhood [USC walking tour] has the highest concentration of homeless people in the United States, with 11,000 to 12,000 homeless people living in the 50-block area. The LA Times has more.

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