City, homeless people settle federal anti-camping lawsuit

The Portland Tribune, Jan 23, 2012
Portland city officials and attorneys representing four homeless people have reached a tentative agreement to settle a three-year-old federal lawsuit that sought to overturn the city’s anti-camping ordinance.
Details of the settlement will be worked out by the end of February, when both sides report back to a federal judge. However, court documents filed this month indicate that the settlement will include changes to enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance and monetary damages to at least the four homeless people who brought the lawsuit.
Attorneys with the nonprofit Oregon Law Center filed the lawsuit in December 2008 challenging the constitutionality of Portland’s anti-camping ordinance. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Marlin Anderson, Mary Bailey, Matthew Chase and Jack Golden, all homeless people who claimed Portland police rousted them from campsites and improperly seized their belongings during sweeps of homeless camps.
According to the complaint, without adequate shelters, some homeless people have no alternative to sleeping outside. Enforcing the anti-camping ordinance against those people by not allowing them to sleep outside violates the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment restriction against “cruel and unusual punishment,” attorneys argued.
A request by Oregon Law Center attorneys to make the legal action a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all area homeless people affected by the anti-camping ordinance was rejected by federal Judge Ann Aiken in a Dec. 7, 2011, opinion.
In the same opinion, Aiken told attorneys for both sides to try to settle the dispute without going to trial. “This case cries out for a political solution rather than a legal one, and the court strongly urges the decision makers in this case to consider realistic and practical measures to resolve the plaintiffs’ claims,” Aiken wrote.
Defendants in the case included former Police Chief Rosie Sizer and more than four dozen “John Doe” police officers who enforced the anti-camping ordinance.
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