Grants Pass wins

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that banning camping in public places is permissible under the federal constitution. At least, it's not forbidden by the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause. The vote was 6 to 3, along the usual lines. The opinion is here.

This probably won't make much difference in Oregon, because between the geniuses in the Legislature and the state Supreme Court, they'll likely find a way to torpedo any reasonable solution that muncipalities can come up with to address the destruction of public places by addicts and other campers. But at least the "advocates" will stop running to the federal courthouse for a while.

I'm no fan of Justice Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion, but he makes some valid points here:

    To be sure, and once more, a variety of other legal doctrines and constitutional provisions work to protect those in our criminal justice system from a conviction. Like some other jurisdictions, Oregon recognizes a “necessity” defense to certain criminal charges. It may be that defense extends to charges for illegal camping when it comes to those with nowhere else to go. See State v. Barrett, 302 Ore. App. 23, 28, 460 P. 3d 93, 96 (2020) (citing Ore. Rev. Stat. §161.200). Insanity, diminished-capacity, and duress defenses also may be available in many jurisdictions. See Powell, 392 U. S., at 536. States and cities are free as well to add additional substantive protections. Since this litigation began, for example, Oregon itself has adopted a law specifically addressing how far its municipalities may go in regulating public camping. See, e.g., Ore. Rev. Stat. §195.530(2) (2023). For that matter, nothing in today’s decision prevents States, cities, and counties from going a step further and declining to criminalize public camping altogether. For its part, the Constitution provides many additional limits on state prosecutorial power, promising fair notice of the laws and equal treatment under them, forbidding selective prosecutions, and much more besides.... All this represents only a small sample of the legion protections our society affords a presumptively free individual from a criminal conviction. But aside from Robinson, a case directed to a highly unusual law that condemned status alone, this Court has never invoked the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause to perform that function.


  1. Probably not enough commercial real estate that Blackrock wants to buy for pennies, so no need to continue the "camping" hustle down there. LA, SF, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver the game goes on.

  2. Isn't this kind of moot at this point anyway, since Oregon codified Martin v. Boise as state law in HB3115? From the bill:

    "Any city or county law that regulates the acts of sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping
    warm and dry outdoors on public property that is open to the public must be objectively
    reasonable as to time, place and manner with regards to persons experiencing homelessness."

    It might lift the legal precedent set by the 9th Circuit, but that doesn't really change anything in Oregon since then-Rep. Kotek sponsored this law.

    1. Speaking of Kotek, the Ethics Commission held true to form and whitewashed Mrs Kotek on the Friday before the holiday week.

    2. Martin was way worse than that state statute you quote from. But as I say, the Oregon judges will be sure that the statute reaches the same level of suckitude.

      And statutes can be changed a lot easier than the federal constitution.


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