Friday, March 12, 2010

Federal judge dismisses much
of homeless lawsuit against St. Petersburg

It looks like a major victory for the city of St. Petersburg. A federal judge has tossed out nine allegations in a lawsuit that accuses St. Petersburg of violating the rights of homeless people by enforcing a series of punitive ordinances.

Essentially, the ruling upholds the city's right to arrest people for sleeping during the day in downtown public rights of way and storing personal property on public land. The city also has the right to ban people from city property if they had committed crimes there before.

Judge Steven Merryday also denied class action status for the lawsuit, meaning the scope of those making the allegations is limited to the five named plaintiffs.

"We're obviously disappointed with the court's decision," said Catherine Bendor, an attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. "We'd prefer that the city devote its resources to alternatives to criminalizing homelessness. We're considering our options at this point with respect to this litigation."

Two allegations remain: that police have no right to ask homeless people for identification and that it's cruel and unusual punishment to arrest people for public urination when restrooms aren't available. Assistant City Attorney Joseph Patner said the city will file a motion asking for those to be dismissed as well.

Read the St. Petersburg Times story here.


At 2:17 PM, Blogger Slum Jack said...

I'm dismayed to hear this. Way over on the other coast, we have similar-to-identical "law enforcement" trends stepping up to directly criminalize and harrass homeless people.

Each and every precedent is key.

And thank you for your work and attention in these matters. At least we can do what's possible to keep the lights and awareness on.


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