Royally Kranked

Friday, April 14, 2006

From this Liberal's perspective, genuine Good News is a nice concept, and one we see far too little of these days, especially when considering how our Federal Government rewards corporate thieves, overstretches the US Military past the breaking point, makes the US more liable to a terrorist attack by the hour and rapes the US Constitution on an active basis in the name of protecting our freedoms

What's noteworthy about the following is that there is an inherent dignity in even the least amongst us, with rights that cannot be derisively waved away by legislative fiat

And that even applies to the Homeless

bypass registration with this Bug Me Not link

Appeals Court Slaps L.A. Over Arrests of Homeless

Los Angeles' policy of arresting homeless people for sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks as "an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter" violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and punishment, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, decided in favor of six homeless persons, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The suit challenged the city's practice of arresting persons for violating a municipal ordinance, which states that "no person shall sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or public way."

The appeals court ruled that the manner in which the city has enforced the ordinance has criminalized "the status of homelessness by making it a crime to be homeless," and thereby violated the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Since being poor is not a crime, it follows logically that being so poor as to be homeless is also not a crime, nor should it be

In her ruling, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw said that Los Angeles' Skid Row has the highest concentration of homeless individuals in the United States. She said that about 11,000 to 12,000 homeless people live in Skid Row, a 50-block area, bounded by Third, Seventh, Main and Alameda Streets.

"Because there is substantial and undisputed evidence that the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles far exceeds the number of available shelter beds at all times, including on the night" the plaintiffs were arrested or cited, "Los Angeles has encroached upon" the plaintiffs' 8th Amendment protections "by criminalizing the unavoidable act of sitting, lying or sleeping at night while being involuntarily homeless," Wardlaw wrote.


Wardlaw cited numerous reports on the homeless situation in Los Angeles, including one written by city officials, which said "the gap between the homeless population needing a shelter bed and the inventory of shelter beds is severely large."

Consequently, the judge noted, "for many in Skid Row without the resources or luck to obtain shelter, sidewalks are the only place to be….The evidence supports the reasonable inference that shelter is unavailable for thousands of homeless individuals in Los Angeles on any given night."

The judge said that evidence introduced in the case, entitled Edward Jones v. City of Los Angeles, showed the plaintiffs "are not on the streets of Skid Row by informed choice."

Wardlaw said that "as a result of the expansive reach of the [Los Angeles ordinance], the extreme lack of available shelter in Los Angeles, and the large homeless population, thousands of people violate the Los Angeles ordinance every day and night, and many are arrested, losing what few possessions they may have."

To punish the most powerless in this society with jail terms & fines for not staying in homeless shelters, to further disrupt their lives and confiscate their few meager possessions when the city itself admitted there were nowhere near enough spots available to take everybody was not only heartless, but also a policy which, over the long term builds up hatred on the part of those penalized legally

And when the poor, the powerless & the economic underclasses lose enough hope, so that raw anger erupts upon yet another example of just how truly powerless are those at the bottom of the economic ladder, then you get urban riots along the lines of those which racked LA for 3 days in 1992, after the Not Guilty verdicts regarding the cops who beat Rodney King

It's an obvious self-interest for society to have as many strong safety nets to care for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. self-interest of the smartest kind

And the Judge lacerated the city's law, hacking it to pieces for being illogical and about as blind to reality as possible

Wardlaw scoffed at the position Los Angeles officials took in the case.

"The City…apparently believes that [the plaintiffs] can avoid sitting, lying and sleeping for days, weeks, or months at a time to comply with the City's ordinance, as if human beings could remain in perpetual motion. That being an impossibility, by criminalizing, sitting lying, and sleeping, the City is in fact criminalizing [the plaintiffs] status as homeless individuals," Wardlaw wrote.

With the clearly incompetent hack currently masquerading as President claiming inherent Constitutional authority to violate that same Constitution he's sworn to uphold whenever he feels like, it's good to see that with hope on the part of those at the very bottom of our society and economy, it's worth fighting to ensure the inherent dignity in every person, a dignity far too often stripped from the least politically powerful.


  • Good for the 9th circuit. It's no wonder the conservatives want to break it up. Let's hope we can stop that travesty.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:33 PM  

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