The Supreme Court Says the Government Can’t Seize Citizens’ Possessions…Even If They’re Homeless

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LosAngeles can’t take possesions from the homeless.

The county Department of Public Health told the city of Los Angeles they needed to clean up their act…or at least clean up the area called “skid row.”

So the city made some improvements. They put in 500 more trash cans in the region in question, for example.

But then, they started seizing the possessions of the homeless, including–as eight skid row residents allege–their identification, medications, cellphones and toiletries.

The city argued it was within their right to confiscate homeless belongings, which were often improperly stored, claiming the belongings presented a “health hazard.”

But once the case went to court, attorney Carol Sobel who represented the homeless plaintiffs, suggested the city purposefully let trash and filth pile up for months to try to exaggerate the problem and win its legal battle.

A lower court who reviewed the evidence and testimony ruled in favor of the homeless. In other words, they told Los Angeles that no, they couldn’t seize possessions from U.S. citizens…even if they¬†were homeless.

But rather than concede the point, the city appealed to the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s judgment and let them take items belonging to the homeless.

But get this. This past Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reverse the lower court’s ruling.

So the decision stands. If–and only IF–a homeless person’s possessions pose a true threat to passerby’s well-being, then the items can be removed but they cannot be destroyed. If the items are taken, though, they must be made available to be reclaimed by the residents who own them (just like they would be if the residents in question were not homeless). And yes, the court said this applies even if the possessions are left unattended.

It seems while hoarded possessions left unattended in piles are an inconvenience, the courts’ actions perhaps highlighted that the much deeper inconvenience is the fact there isn’t sufficient affordable housing.

I don’t know about you, but I find it refreshing that the courts were unwilling to pretend the problem is trash and the solution is trash removal.

Perhaps in refusing to dismiss the rights of homeless citizens, they will push cities toward a solution that cares more about people than curbside litter.

Congratulations, Supreme Court. Well done.

Read more here.

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