Sleeping on the Streets

This undated file photo shows the entrance to an alley known as Cooper Court, a former homeless encampment in Boise.

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BOISE — A legal fight to appeal a federal court ruling on Boise’s anti-public sleeping ordinance continues, but it comes with a cost.

Boise City Council voted Tuesday to increase its contract for the case with local firm Moore Elia Kraft & Hall LLP to $400,000, up from $200,000. This is the second time the contract has been increased since council voted to award it to the firm for $50,000. Funds to pay for this will be taken out of the city’s risk management fund, which is contributed to from departments across the city.

At the beginning of September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion finding Boise’s ordinance preventing residents experiencing homelessness from sleeping on the streets violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The court also sent part of the decision back to U.S. District Court. The city has requested a rehearing in front of the Ninth Circuit, but there has been no response yet.

If the request for the rehearing is denied, the city has the option to request the case go before the U.S. Supreme Court. The other alternative is proceeding to trial in the U.S. District Court to resolve remaining issues.

Six Boise residents filed the suit in 2009, claiming the city had “criminalized” homelessness by issuing tickets to those without shelter for sleeping outside when they had no other place to turn when shelters were at capacity, according to court documents. This ruling could affect other cities across the region with similar laws.

Margaret Carmel covers the city of Boise. Follow her on Twitter @mlcarmel or reach her by phone at 757-705-8066.

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