US Supreme Court declines to hear, overturn ruling that sparked Austin’s decriminalization of camping, sitting, lying down in public

Homeless encampments such as these were a point of major contention in Austin over the summer. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Homeless encampments such as these were a point of major contention in Austin over the summer. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Homeless encampments such as these were a point of major contention in Austin over the summer. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a case that ruled bans against sleeping, sitting and lying down in public—bans which directly impact the homeless—were a constitutional violation, according to court documents filed Dec. 16.

That ruling in question was a catalyst in Austin City Council’s controversial June decision to decriminalize the acts. Both the state of Texas and the Downtown Austin Alliance had signed on to support the attempt to have the Supreme Court review the ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in Martin v. City of Boise.


The Supreme Court provided no reason for denying the petition to hear the case. The Supreme Court’s decision to do nothing more with the case is a win for homeless advocates, who regularly pointed to the case in urging Austin City Council to decriminalize public camping, sitting and lying down.

A 2017 report from the city auditor’s office also pointed to the case, which said such bans were a violation of the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. The auditor’s report claimed if Austin upheld the bans, the city would be vulnerable to lawsuits.

City Council decided June 20 to lift bans on public camping, sitting and lying down throughout the city. The polarizing decision sparked a community dialogue focused almost exclusively on Austin’s homelessness challenges throughout the summer months. City Council has since adjusted the rules and implemented bans in specific situations.
SHARE THIS STORY
By Christopher Neely

Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


MOST RECENT

Austin City Council is considering an end to enforcement of low level marijuana possession laws. (SHELBY SAVAGE/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER)
Support grows among Austin City Council members who want to end local penalties for low-level marijuana possession

If successful, the Austin Police Department would no longer hand out arrests or citations for possession of marijuana with no intent to distribute.

dell seton university medical center
Ascension Texas names new regional hospital president

Ascension Texas announced Jan. 16 that Timothy Brierty has assumed the role of regional hospital president, effective immediately.

Rendering Courtesy Baldridge Architects Office
Sorek Barbershop & Menswear to open on ground floor of Arrive Hotel

Sorek Barbershop & Menswear will open in the ground-floor retail space at the East Austin Arrive hotel, 1813B …

Howler Brothers to open surf-inspired clothing and accessories store on South Congress

Howler Brothers—a locally based, surf-inspired clothing and accessories company—will open a new retail …

zanjero park water
Travis County commissioners pursue easement to bring water to Las Lomitas subdivision

Travis County commissioners are working to address colonias—unincorporated areas in the county that lack basic utilities.

New skincare clinic SkinSpirit coming to North Lamar

Skincare clinic SkinSpirit—the largest provider of Botox and dermal fillers in the U.S. according to its …

Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case, the first case of the contagious viral infection in Travis County since 1999. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Austin Public Health confirms city’s first rubella case since 1999

Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case, the first case of the contagious viral infection in Travis County since 1999.

Travis County commissioners will receive preliminary estimates for a new peace officer step pay scale at their Jan. 28 meeting. (Courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Office)
Travis County commissioners consider revisions to peace office pay

Travis County commissioners are considering options that will revise the pay scale for peace officers, including law enforcement, corrections and park rangers.

The 44 East project will reach 570 feet in height with 322 residential units and 3,534 square feet of commercial space. (Rendering courtesy IntraCorp)
Planned 49-story Rainey Street district project clears major hurdle on way to 2022 completion date

The project will include 322 residential units and 3,534 square feet of commercial space.

Texas oil and gas industry could see a major slowdown in 2020

The oil and natural gas industry paid a record-setting $16.3 billion in taxes and royalties to local governments and the state in 2019, the Texas Oil and Gas Association announced Tuesday.

Commuters arrive at downtown Austin's lone light rail stop. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
With unveiling of 'transformational' transit proposal, support for urban rail grows among Austin leaders

Before voting on a multibillion-dollar bond referendum coming in November, the community will have to choose between an urban rail or bus transit system.

Options in the Project Connect plan include adding light rail as well as expanding MetroRail, the commuter rail line in the region. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Voters could decide in November how to fund an estimated $2.9B-$7.2B needed to expand transit in Austin area

Capital Metro, city of Austin officials are discussing financing options for expanding transit through Project Connect.

Back to top