[Hpn] Public Sleeping Ban UNCONSTITUTIONAL - Judge rules in Austin, TX fwd

john macpherson nyceguy50@yahoo.com
Fri, 19 May 2000 11:08:16 -0700 (PDT)

Mayor Watson told the press that the city doesn't wish
to violate a persons constitutional rights, yesterday.
 The camping ordinance is up for discussion as soon as
the next council meeting.
 We are discussing the possibility of going for
punitive damages and other options.
My-ooh my how small did the council members look as
there faces turned red as they tried to hide within
there seats; as they were being blasted for there
wrongfull acts as we advise them every month that the
homeless are not the criminals, and they were for
failing to uphold our constatutional right to life!

--- Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net> wrote:
> FWD  Austin American-Statesman / May 17, 2000
> PHOTO by Deborah Cannon/AA-S
> Dennis Downey, left, and some fellow supporters of
> repealing Austin's
> camping ban cheer the announcement of Tuesday's
> ruling. A judge said
> the part of the law targeting sleeping doesn't
> clearly distinguish
> between camping and taking a nap in a public place.
> By Leah Quin
> American-Statesman Staff
> A Travis County magistrate upheld most of Austin's
> no-camping ordinance Tuesday
> but found that a key part of it, banning sleeping in
> public, is
> unconstitutional.
> Magistrate Jim Coronado's ruling means that police
> should probably not arrest
> people simply for sleeping in parks or other public
> places, said Assistant City
> Attorney Fred Hawkins. However, other parts of the
> ordinance that prohibit
> camping-related activities, such as storing personal
> belongings or pitching
> tents and other temporary shelters, can still be
> enforced.
> Although it doesn't mention homeless people
> specifically, the no-camping
> ordinance was created to address concerns about
> transients living in open areas
> downtown and in parks and greenbelts.
> The mixed ruling -- which may still be appealed or
> overruled -- initially drew
> cheers from about 50 homeless people and their
> supporters who attended the
> hearing, but later response was tempered.
> "I feel like we're making inroads," said Christopher
> Standage, whose several
> tickets for public camping were the basis of the
> court action. "It's a start.
> It's understanding that this (sleeping) is a basic
> human need."
> Richard Troxell, president of the advocacy group
> House the Homeless, was less
> subdued.
> "We're elated," said Troxell, who pumped his fist in
> the air upon hearing
> Coronado's decision. "The judge found the most
> damaging piece of this ordinance
> is unconstitutional."
> The findings come after nine months of weekly
> argument in the case, which
> landed in Coronado's court after nearly four years
> of litigation at the
> municipal, district and state appellate levels.
> Standage and another homeless man, Christopher
> Lyons, were ticketed for
> violating the city's ban on sleeping and living in
> doorways, alleys, streets or
> parks. Before the City Council passed the
> controversial ban in 1996 with a 4-3
> vote, opponents had argued that it violated
> constitutional rights -- an
> argument that Cecilia Wood, a lawyer and an advocate
> for homeless people, took
> up while representing Standage and Lyons.
> Coronado -- appointed as district court magistrate
> in 1991 to handle
> preliminary hearings, plea bargains, sentencings and
> other "nuts-and-bolts"
> court proceedings -- has listened to hours of legal
> argument since last July,
> after the Third Court of Appeals asked Travis County
> to conduct a full hearing
> on the matter.
> Tuesday, he said that arresting someone for sleeping
> violates a person's right
> to due process because the wording is so vague it
> could encourage police to
> enforce the law against only certain people.
> "In particular, it fails to provide any standard for
> an officer to discern
> whether one is camping in public or taking an
> innocent nap in a public place,"
> Coronado said, reading his ruling aloud in court.
> Hawkins and Travis County prosecutor Bryan Case,
> both of whom defended the
> ordinance, said the judge's decision probably won't
> have much practical effect.
> Most parks have nighttime curfews, and sleeping in
> the doorways of
> privately-owned businesses or public thoroughfares
> would violate other laws.
> Besides, Hawkins said, the ordinance asks police to
> consider all the
> circumstances of a person living outdoors, which
> isn't restricted to sleeping.
> "This just makes it clear that sleeping can't be
> considered by itself," Hawkins
> said. He will talk with his superiors about future
> action, such as an appeal.
> The ruling appears to put the ball back in the City
> Council's court, Troxell
> said. After Tuesday's hearing, he stood outside the
> courthouse annex, inviting
> all present to speak about the issue at Thursday's
> City Council meeting.
> "We're hoping common sense will come to all
> lawmakers, and that they start
> addressing the root causes of homelessness," Troxell
> said.
> At least one council member said the decision means
> that the ordinance should
> be re-examined.
> "It raises a whole set of new questions," Council
> Member Beverly Griffith said.
> "In light of this ruling, we are going to need to
> haul out the whole ordinance
> with our legal staff advising us."
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