Clinic Wins Legal Victories for the Homeless
Oldtimer’s comment. It appears to me the City of Marietta is on shakey ground. St. Louis was fined $80,000 for merely forcing the homeless off the streets during holiday celebrations and other times without probable cause. I know that in addition to the city’s forceful eviction of an entire population from the city that is going on today in The City That Doesn’t Care, they also did a systematic sweep around the city before and during the Christmas season so that tourists and merry makers could use the square without encountering the homeless.
You can find the rest of this story here for the inital story in 2004 when the lawsuit was filed and here for the present story announcing the win.
Update: Federal Lawsuit Settlement Reached – On October 12, 2005, the School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic settled a federal lawsuit it brought on behalf of homeless men and women in St. Louis.
The clinic’s clients — 25 homeless or homeless appearing individuals — had sued the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department, City of St. Louis, and the Downtown St. Louis Partnership for allegedly conspiring to remove them from downtown St. Louis during the Fourth of July weekend and at other times during 2004. The settlement awards the plaintiffs $80,000, and the police department has acknowledged that the city’s homeless cannot be arrested or removed without probable cause that a criminal offense has occurred.
“We believe the revitalization of downtown and the rights of the homeless are not mutually exclusive,” says law professor Steven Gunn, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “This agreement will help educate police officers, employees of the Downtown Partnership, and city officials about the rights of the homeless and all citizens to be free from unlawful arrest and harassment in public places.”
Many of the plaintiffs claimed they were detained by police for no reason other than to remove them from the streets as part of a “sweep” during the Fourth of July fair. Some of those arrested also were forced to clean up trash without ever having seen a judge.
“This agreement makes it clear that sweeps violate the law and violate human dignity,” said Gunn. “The constitution requires probable cause for arrest, and it also says you can’t punish people before they have a trial.”