Ninth Circuit Rules It's Cruel & Unusual Punishment to Arrest Homeless

Friday, April 14, 2006
By a split 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit ruled that arresting the homeless for sitting, lying or sleeping in public streets or sidewalks constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment violative of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Writing for the majority, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (appointed by President Clinton in 1998) reversed the District Court and held that the City of Los Angeles could not enforce its municipal code against the homeless sleeping in the streets. Edward C. Reed, Jr., Senior United States District Judge for the District of Nevada, sitting by designation, joined in Judge Wardlaw's opinion. (Reed was appointed by President Carter in 1979.)

Judge Pamela Ann Rymer (appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989) dissented.

13 comments:

terrye said...

Well this proves that it takes no real big brain to become a judge.

I bet this will come as a blow to the homeless who sometimes don't mind a night in jail. I wonder if this is about not having to pay to take care of these poor people?

Rick Ballard said...

Terrye,

No, it's a follow up on the theory that the 'treatable' mentally ill are capable of making correct choices. Many are, if they keep to the drug regimens that allow them to maintain rationality. That's the theory that closed the state institutions and put about seventy percent of the 'homeless' on the street. "Keeping to the drug regimen" remains much more of theoretical tather than a practical reality.

The Nitwit Ninth is just following form - upholding 'rights' which ensure a life of abject misery for those they proclaim to be protecting. The proper response to this is to set up mobile soup kitchens at stops near the judges houses. Nothing like an unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic to liven up a neighborhood.

Rick Ballard said...

Btw - the Nitwit Ninth loves to pull this crap in election years. If this is appealed then it will be "evil Reps criminalizing the homeless".

The Ninth should be split and the lefties moved to the Thirtyeleventh Circuit which would be based in Western Samoa.

David Thomson said...

This is what happens when Democratic presidents are elected. Eight years of Bill Clinton may have a lot to do with this nonsense.

chuck said...

That's the theory that closed the state institutions and put about seventy percent of the 'homeless' on the street.

Yes, I remember the rather sudden appearence of the homeless on the streets. I ran into some who were clearly unable to take care of themselves in the best of circumstance and there they were, on their own in the middle of nowhere. There may be a philosophy that holds that the mentally disabled are merely differently enabled, but it doesn't do those poor folks any good.

What bothers me most, however, is the degradation of the words "cruel and unusual punishment." This judgement trivializes such things as outright torture and contributes to the fuzzy thinking and inability to make moral judgements that already plague the left. It also seems to undercut normal legislative perogatives and government by the people, elevating the courts to a position of power to which they have no legitimate claim.

vnjagvet said...
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vnjagvet said...

This is an example of the use of the criminal justice system to solve social problems, for which it is ill equipped.

The "homeless" are not a monolithic group. Some are non-conformists, some are substance addicted, some are mentally ill, and many (but not all) are incapable or unwilling to take advantage of the many social programs to provide them shelter.

How do we humanely manage these people?

What follows may be offensive to some. I don't intend it that way.

There are many discarded pet animals of all kinds on the streets of every major metropolitan area. What is the social norm we have chosen to deal with this problem? "Humane" Societies and the ASPCA have for many years (146 for the ASPCA) made it their missions to rescue and shelter homeless and abused domesticated animals.

Now, most counties and municipalities employ individuals who make it their business to rescue and house abused and abandoned domestic animals.

Why can't equivalent resources be devoted to rescuing and housing in a humane way the "least of these" humans who, for whatever reason, are making their home on the streets of our cities?

Skookumchuk said...

vnjagvet:

Why can't equivalent resources be devoted to rescuing and housing in a humane way the "least of these" humans who, for whatever reason, are making their home on the streets of our cities?

I once had an animal shelter manager tell me she couldn't do what she did for cats if they were all people - she just didn't react to people in the same caring way. Well, nothing like honesty . . .

But your larger point is well taken. There is no reason why private institutions, such as churches, could not return to their historic duties and give to "the least of these" some decent shelter and care.

brylun said...

Professor Marvin Olasky wrote a book called The "Tragedy of American Compassion" (Regnery 1992, 1995) in which he recommended that care of the homeless be turned back to churches. The tragedy he discusses is the failure of the modern state-based welfare system to truly help the most unfortunate.

vnjagvet said...

A year or two ago, I saw a wonderful segment on a program like 60 Minutes or 20 20 or the like. It featured a man had made it his mission in life to take in as many street people as he could, find out their peculiarities and attempt to get them the appropriate assistance so they could become more independent.

This guy was an artist of the streets. He was tough when he needed to be, but he knew how to deal with his constituency.

I cannot remember how he got his funding to keep himself going, but whatever he got, it was worth every nickel, because he was very effective.

I wish I could recall the program.

Rick Ballard said...

"There is no reason why private institutions, such as churches, could not return to their historic duties and give to "the least of these" some decent shelter and care."

Skook,

There most certainly is a reason. I've volunteered at shelters and you have to screen - the "homeless" quite often have problems that make them impossibile to deal with in situations where they are not isolated.

As Vnjagvet notes - it takes some special qualities to run a shelter and there are lot of 'homeless' that just won't accept any constraints whatsoever.

Skookumchuk said...

Rick:

the "homeless" quite often have problems that make them impossibile to deal with in situations where they are not isolated.

True enough. There is no substitute for psychiatric hospitals and similar institutions. And often churches and other private shelters will face a choice in turning those people away or sometimes allowing some of them in - but usually only when these churches have all the requisite insurance and at least some professional managers and staff. Having said that, I have observed that the care and the motivation that one sees in the church and volunteer sector often surpasses that of those in the public sector, for whatever set of reasons. Just one person's observations, but I think there is something to it. There has to be a way to harness that in a more organized and comprehensive way.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

brylun,

The tragedy he discusses is the failure of the modern state-based welfare system to truly help the most unfortunate.

That's only because communism, I mean the modern state-based welfare system, has never actually been tried.