Potatoes and the 9th Circuit

Posted by Mike Michalski on Saturday, August 3rd, 2019.

We’ve never been there but Boise, Idaho seems like a nice city. Beautiful scenery (called the City of Trees), mild climate with four seasons, lots of outdoor recreation (they say they have lots of potatoes but not the couch kind).

Amazingly, Boise has also had an indirect influence on the quality of life in most cities and municipalities in the western US (that would include Manhattan Beach) thanks to an erroneous, ill-considered decision by the famously liberal-progressive judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Just to take you back, last year around this time it looked like Manhattan Beach was being pro-active on the homelessness issue when City Council adopted (on a 5-0 vote) a new, anti-camping ordinance intended to get out in front of the problem of homeless tent cities cropping up on public property that have plagued other cities (see Los Angeles, Venice, etc).


Yet almost immediately afterwards, the 9th Circus Circuit, in the case of Martin v. City of Boise, actually found a constitutional reason for denying the enforceability of these anti-camping ordinances!

At the risk of oversimplifying, a 3-judge panel (two Obama appointees and a Clinton appointee, naturally) concluded that Boise could not enforce its ordinance prohibiting individuals who are homeless from sleeping outside if those individuals don’t have access to alternative shelter. The panel regarded such enforcement as a violation of the Constitution’s 8th amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

In other words, the homeless must be allowed to sleep outside if they have nowhere else to go. Of course, by that reasoning, they must also be allowed to urinate and defecate on public property if they have nowhere else ‘to go.’

This decision essentially ties the hands of cities and counties as they’re trying to address homeless encampments by taking ordinances that virtually every city, including Manhattan Beach, has in some form or another off the table and creating a constitutional bar to enforcement.

The net result of this decision is that many cities (Sacramento, San Francisco and Portland among others) have stopped enforcing their anti-camping ordinances, with a predictable decline in those cities’ quality of life as their vagrant populations have exploded.

Boise, by contrast, is standing firm, and is now petitioning the US Supreme Court – called a petition for a writ of certiorari, for you legal geeks - to hear this case and potentially reverse the 9th Circuit’s ruling (nothing unusual, given the 9th Circuit’s track record).

How You Can Help – VERY IMPORTANT!

Manhattan Beach City Council, in closed session this coming Tuesday, August 6, will be considering whether to join with numerous other cities in filing “friend of the court” briefs - also known as amicus briefs (okay, I’ll stop with the legalese) - in support of Boise’s petition.

You can and should let your voice be heard by Council that you want Manhattan Beach to support Boise’s petition.

How to be heard? Three ways –

  1. Submit an eComment by going to the Comment page - called SpeakUpManhattanBeach! - and leaving a comment by clicking on the agenda item (which is Item I. Conference with Legal Counsel (Initiation of Litigation)). This will bring you to a comment box where you can write a comment and check the Support option.
    Click here for SpeakUpManhattanBeach! page.
  2. Email all city councilmembers with a copy to the city manager – link is on the City Council page (Click here for City Council page).
  3. Emailing the individual council members, all of whose email addresses are listed here at Contact City Council.

Please let your voice be heard on this matter.

This entry was posted under Manhattan Beach, and Smell The Coffee.