The Criminalization of Homelessness —
Mondays 3:30-5:30 pm
Office, Office Hours, and Faculty Assistant
This seminar will explore the criminalization of homelessness—policies in which local governments use systematic arrests of homeless people for relatively minor misdemeanors to drive them out of core urban areas. The seminar will have three major aims. The first is to examine the large-scale economic and social trends in inequality that contribute to homelessness, and the range of policy responses aimed at preventing or alleviating it. The second is to explore the contributions that civil rights litigation can make to supporting constructive policy responses, as well as the limits of litigation as an agent of social change. The third is to gain a practical lawyering sense of how social impact litigation is conducted, using as a case study the current consent decree in Pottinger v. City of Miami. That consent decree limits the power of the police to arrest homeless people for certain misdemeanor offenses they cannot avoid committing while homeless. Paper topics will be chosen by the students, but must be approved by the professor.
There is no book to buy, but you will need the Course Readings and the Pottinger/Statutory Supplement. The first installment of each can be found on this page. Part III of the Readings will be made available at the Copy Center starting 2/1/19 in the morning.
Class 1 (Monday, January 14, 2019): Introduction
This class introduces some basic background on homelessness, the Pottinger case and consent decree, and the general themes of the seminar.
This class takes an intensive look at policies of “criminalizing” homelessness entail. What is meant by the policy? Why do localities take this approach? Are there arguments for the intensive use of the criminal law in dealing with homelessness? What are the arguments against?
This class will take a look at the cases and legal theories relating to challenges to the constitutionality of criminalization policies, focusing on the challenges based on the Eighth Amendment.
We will continue our discussion of the cases and legal theories relating to challenges to the constitutionality of criminalization policies. We will complete our discussion of the Eighth Amendment, and then look at the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Then we will turn to the right to shelter under some U.S. states’ laws, international law, and South Africa’s constitution.
We will complete our discussion of the right to shelter under U.S. law and turn to the right to shelter under some U.S. states’ laws, international law, and South Africa’s constitution. Then we will begin our discussion of some practical legal considerations in bringing challenges to criminalization of homelessness.
Note also that your preliminary choice of paper topic is due on Monday, February 18. For more information, see the Papers page.
This class takes an overall look at the lawyering and strategy issues related to bringing a challenge to criminalization. Benjamin Waxman, the lead counsel in the Pottinger case, will discuss his two decades of experience of representing the homeless in federal district court. The class will also examine what can be accomplished through litigation, focusing on its potential achievements and limitations. If there is time after this discussion, we will also continue our discussion of the material assigned last week on Planning a Legal Challenge to Criminalization.
We will continue our look at the Pottinger litigation, first beginning with a more systematic look at the legal issues relating to planning a lawsuit of this sort, and then taking a close look at the terms of the consent decree.
We will continue our look at the Pottinger litigation, focusing on settlement of litigation through consent decrees, modification and termination of consent decrees, and award of attorneys fees.
This class will begin with a look at the relationship between sex offender residency restrictions and homelessness, with guest speaker Jeffrey Hearne.
This class takes an overall look at the situation of the homeless in Miami. What is the population of those experiencing homelessness? What causes homelessness? What services are available to the homeless? What agencies provide them? How are they funded and provided? What policies best address the problem? Evian White De Leon, Deputy Director of Miami Homes for All, will be here to talk about these issues. If we have time, we will complete our look at the issue of attorneys fees, which we began to discuss in Class 8.
The class will begin by concluding our discussion of attorneys fees, which we begain in Class 8. We will then take a look at the decision terminating the Consent Decree. Finally, we will turn to models of lawyering in social change litigation, including some ethical issues.