As Supreme Court Hears Grants Pass v. Johnson, ACLU Reiterates Call to Uphold Eighth Amendment Protections

Hundreds of Advocates Expected to Rally Outside of the Court

April 22, 2024 9:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

WASHINGTON — Ahead of oral arguments in Grants Pass v. Johnson today, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU affiliates in 18 states who submitted a friend-of-the court brief once again urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Eighth Amendment protections. The brief, filed on April 3, argues that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments does not allow cities to issue fines or arrest people for sleeping outside in public when they have no access to adequate shelter.

Over 1,000 organizations and public leaders have filed more than 40 amicus briefs urging the court to uphold the rights of unhoused people. And as the Supreme Court prepares to hear the case, hundreds of advocates will be rallying outside the court in support of people experiencing homelessness and their right to exist without being targeted for arrest or fines.

Grants Pass v. Johnson originated in an Oregon town that passed ordinances barring people from sleeping outside in public using a blanket, pillow, or even a cardboard sheet to lie on. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that criminally punishing unhoused people under these laws violates the Eighth Amendment “if there are no other public areas or appropriate shelters where those individuals can sleep.”

“We hope that the Supreme Court recognizes the profound indignity of arresting or fining people for simply existing. There is no punishment that fits the ‘crime’ of being forced to sleep outside,” said Scout Katovich, staff attorney with the ACLU Trone Center for Justice and Equality. “There are proven solutions to end homelessness, like affordable housing, accessible and voluntary services, and eviction protections. Cities should be prioritizing these solutions rather than asking the courts to strip away the rights and dignity of unhoused people.”

Members of Congress, nationally recognized faith leaders, people who have experienced homelessness, and other experts are scheduled to speak this morning at the courthouse rally, organized by the National Homelessness Law Center, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and other leading organizations.

Sign up to be the first to hear about how to take action.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release