Supreme Court reverses 9th Circuit ruling that Grants Pass Anti-Camping Ordinance constitutes “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”

Today, the United States Supreme Court announced a 6-3 decision in favor of the City of Grants Pass in the City of Grants Pass v. Gloria Johnson. Thus ends a six-year court battle which began in 2018 when this class action lawsuit was filed against the City of Grants Pass for enforcing anti-camping ordinances in its city parks.

Justice Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion. He begins providing the historical definition of what “cruel and unusual punishment” and why it is in our Bill of Rights.

“Cruel” refers to additional punishment going beyond the typical penalty simply to inflict additional pain and suffering to the criminal. “Unusual” refers to forms of punishment which have not been done for a long time.

Let’s use the ending of the movie Braveheart when William Wallace was drawn and quartered rather than simply being hanged to death. That was cruel punishment as depicted on the big screen.

Yet the movie was tame in comparison to what really happened which included being dragged naked by horses for six miles, hanged yet left alive to have guts and organs removed before being beheaded by an axe, then quartered so that his arms and legs could be sent to four cities as a warning to other rebels against the king of England.

That’s “Cruel and Unusual” punishment and why the U.S. Constitution has the 8th Amendment. Americans wanted to stop doing what the British had done in the past.

Now the Supreme Court has ruled that anti-camping ordinances do not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” Seems obvious in light of the meaning and history of cruel punishments of the past.

Justice Gorsuch’s conclusion points out that the American Way includes making political decisions at the local level and not by unaccountable judges.

Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it. At bottom, the question this case presents is whether the Eighth Amendment grants federal judges primary responsibility for assessing those causes and devising those responses. It does not.

Almost 200 years ago, a visitor to this country remarked upon the “extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in getting them voluntarily to pursue it.” (A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 129). If the multitude of amicus briefs before us proves one thing, it is that the American people are still at it. Through their voluntary associations and charities, their elected representatives and appointed officials, their police officers and mental health professionals, they display that same energy and skill today in their efforts to address the complexities of the homelessness challenge facing the most vulnerable among us.

Yes, people will disagree over which policy responses are best; they may experiment with one set of approaches only to find later another set works better; they may find certain responses more appropriate for some communities than others. But in our democracy, that is their right. Nor can a handful of federal judges begin to “match” the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding “how best to handle” a pressing social question like homelessness. Robinson, 370 U. S., at 689 (White, J., dissenting).

The Constitution’s Eighth Amendment serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American people and in their place dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy. The judgment below is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

This ruling is good for the residents of Grants Pass because it is a big step towards getting our parks back. It’s also good for homeless drug addicts who need compassionate care which helps them get off drugs and get back into the community.

Bill Meyers interviewed me morning around 8:20AM because I am a board member of the Grants Pass Gospel Rescue Mission. Our local mission was not counted by the 9th Circuit Court because “high barriers” include abstinence from drugs and alcohol and attendance at daily chapel services.

The reality is that “low barrier” shelters have “high barriers” to escaping homelessness while the “high barriers” of the Grants Pass Mission offer a far higher probability of success.

35% of Mission residents “graduate” by leaving with a job and a place to live. That’s how the Mission measures success.

Over the past 41 years, the Mission through trial and error has learned how to help the homeless without hurting them. The Mission does this without taxpayer subsidies and only by the voluntary contributions of Mission supporters.

You can learn more about the Grants Pass Gospel Rescue Mission here:

Missions in other cities do it differently. Now with today’s Supreme Court ruling, cities across the 9th Circuit can experiment with how to keep their parks and other public spaces safe for individuals and families while assisting homeless people.

The City of Grants Pass released a statement today, “Like many across our country, we are grateful to know the Supreme Court’s opinion in our case, and we’re thankful that the Court’s ruling will help guide our next steps regarding unhoused members of our community. While it is too soon to know specifically what steps we may take, we are committed to assisting residents struggling to find stable housing, and we will continue working to make Grants Pass a safe and welcoming community for all.”

This statement reflects the current mayor and many on the city council. Elections in November will change how the City of Grants Pass implements ordinances now that the lawsuit has ended in its favor.

A lot can be said about this phrase in the city’s statement, “we will continue working…”

Does “We” refer to city-run homeless shelters paid for by a sales tax or higher property tax? That means “We” are the mayor and a majority of the city council.

Or does “We” refer to “We the people” who will support voluntary organizations like the Grants Pass Gospel Rescue Mission to help homeless people escape homelessness and reenter our community?

Only time will tell. Today, let’s be grateful for winning our appeal to the Supreme Court.


Last night’s debate between former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden was an example of cruel and unusual political punishment by putting him on a worldwide debate stage.

This very early presidential debate displayed the poor mental fitness of President Biden before the American Voter. Now Democrat leaders are calling for Biden to step aside so he can be replaced before the November elections.

This article on Zero Hedge includes a 95 second Trump ad of many of Biden’s lowlights from last night.

CNN Chief Correspondent Says Dems Urging White House To Ask Biden To Step Down After Shocking Debate Performance

“According to CNN’s John King, there will now be a mad last minute scramble to force Biden off the ticket.

“King said there was ‘A deep, a wide, and a very aggressive panic in the Democratic Party, it started minutes into the debate and it continues right now’”

As the Chinese say, “May you live in interesting times.” We certainly do.