FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
City of Fillmore
City of Fillmore Calls for U.S. Supreme Court Intervention in Critical Homelessness Case
FILLMORE, CALIFORNIA – October 20, 2023– On September 25, 2023, the City of Fillmore took a lead role in a coalition of ten California Cities and the County of Orange to file a Brief with the United States Supreme Court, requesting the Court's intervention in a case that has significant implications for local governments' powers to address homelessness and maintain public spaces.
The Brief, filed jointly with other municipalities, seeks clarity from the Supreme Court on a case that challenges the City's ability to enforce anti-camping ordinances without risking costly lawsuits. Over the past five years, the Ninth Circuit has issued rulings that have constrained local governments, including the City of Fillmore, from effectively cleaning up public spaces due to legal challenges tied to shelter availability for persons experiencing homelessness.
The City of Fillmore decided to join this coalition in support of the City of Grants Pass after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied rehearing the case of Johnson v. City of Grants Pass. This denial marked a concerning trend of erosion of local government enforcement powers related to homelessness. These decisions, coupled with recent statewide propositions reducing criminal penalties, have limited the options for local agencies to respond to the growing issue of homelessness in public spaces.
Under current laws, cities like Fillmore are unable to enforce anti-camping ordinances unless they can provide an undefined "adequate shelter" within their also undefined "jurisdiction." The lack of clarity has led to confusion and legal challenges, impacting on the City's ability to maintain public spaces and ensure the safety of both residents and those experiencing homelessness.
The Grants Pass case stems from the landmark 2019 case, Martin v. City of Boise, which changed the legal landscape by ruling that anti-camping ordinances violated constitutional rights. However, the court failed to provide guidance on how cities could address the needs of those experiencing homelessness without allowing public spaces to be overrun with encampments.
The uncertainty has left cities like Fillmore in a difficult position. Most people experiencing homelessness in Fillmore reside in the Santa Clara Riverbed, creating ecological and safety concerns. Despite proactive efforts by the Fillmore Police Department, the lack of clear guidelines and the threat of litigation have hindered the City's ability to enforce anti-camping ordinances effectively.
While the City explores multiple solutions, including urging the Supreme Court to reconsider the Martin rule, the need for clarity in the law is crucial. The City of Fillmore remains committed to addressing homelessness responsibly while maintaining the quality of life for all residents, businesses, and visitors.
Please visit https://www.fillmoreca.gov/1295/Homelessness and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, X, and LinkedIn.
Name: Erika Herrera-Terriquez
Title: Assistant City Manager