City Attorney issues statement on U.S. Supreme Court decision in Grants Pass

Court ruling will provide cities more flexibility in addressing homelessness

SAN FRANCISCO (June 28, 2024) — City Attorney David Chiu issued the following statement today after the United States Supreme Court ruled in City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson that enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” barred by the Eighth Amendment.

City Attorney David Chiu and Mayor London Breed speak at a press conference in August 2022.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Grants Pass will have significant implications for San Francisco, which is in the midst of ongoing litigation about its ability to resolve tent encampments and is operating under a preliminary injunction order relying on precedent the Ninth Circuit set in Grants Pass. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today overturns the Ninth Circuit’s decision, reversing much of the precedent that the preliminary injunction order in Coalition on Homelessness v. San Francisco is based on.

“San Francisco has and will continue to take a compassionate, services-first approach to addressing our homelessness crisis. It will take time to analyze this decision and chart a path forward to change policies on the ground and ensure our litigation catches up with the Supreme Court’s decision today.

However, the Supreme Court’s decision will give cities more flexibility to provide services to unhoused people while keeping our streets healthy and safe. It will help us address our most challenging encampments, where services are often refused and re-encampment is common.

In this case, the Justices grappled with many complicated policy questions that our City workers face on the street every day. The complexity of these questions, and the lived experiences of our City’s workers, illustrate why our position has been that courts are not equipped to police every interaction between government workers and unhoused people. The Supreme Court agreed with that principle today.

Additionally, I am pleased to see that the Court took a more judicious approach, as the City argued in its amicus brief, and did not overturn precedent set in Robinson v. California that prohibits the criminalization of a person’s status. This is important precedent, and the Supreme Court’s opinion leaves many constitutional protections in place for unhoused individuals.”

The case is City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson, U.S. Supreme Court, Case No. 23-175.