The Criminalization of Homelessness —
Causes, Policy, and Practical Lawyering
Wedesdays 3:35 p.m. - 5:15 pm
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 Pottinger v. City of Miami and other cases as examples.
Class participation, two exercises (required; ungraded), and a seminar paper. The final grade may be lowered if you miss class on the day when you are scheduled to do your in-class presentation, other than for health/isolation/quarantine reasons. (If you are simply in quarantine or isolation but feeling well on the day of your presentation, a zoom presentation mode may be available.)
There is no book to buy, but you will need materials available on this page or at the Copy Center.
Class 1 (Wednesday, August 25, 2021): Introduction
This class introduces some basic background on homelessness, the Pottinger case and consent decree, and the general themes of the seminar.
This class will take a look at the current scope and history of homelessness in the U.S.; the nature of the population of those experiencing homelessness; and the causes of homelessness.
This class will examine various policy approaches to dealing with and ending homelessness, including shelters, the continuum of care (CoC), and Housing First.
This class will complete our examination of policy approaches to homelessness. We will look at long term solutions like affordable housing. We will also look at a shorter-term issue with with potentially long-term consequences: the impact of the pandemic on housing and homelessness. Finally we will examine the criminalization of homelessness as a policy response to the phenomeonon of homelessness. What exactly does it meant to “criminalize” homelessness? Why do so many local governments resort to it?
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 and other provisions of the constitution.
We will continue our discussion of the cases and legal theories relating to challenges to the constitutionality of criminalization policies. 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 international and comparative legal approaches to homelessness, and then discuss the LA Alliance case. Class will end at 4:30 pm because of my role in the Keith Ellison event.
We will begin our discussion of some practical legal considerations in bringing challenges to the criminalization of homelessness.
This class will focus on settlement and on consent decrees as ways to protect rights, including modification and termination, and attorneys fees as a component of financing litigation.
Benjamin S. Waxman, lead counsel in the Pottinger case, will be here to talk about the substantive legal questions, and the practical lawyering issues. Think in advance about questions you have for him based on the readings. This is an opportunity to ask questions of someone who has long experience with a major institutional reform case, so do take full advantage of it!
This class will examine in detail the constitutionality of anti-food sharing ordinances, with a particular focus on Miami’s. Tucker Ronzetti, Esq., a litigation attorney with experience in complex commercial litigation and civil rights matters, will speak on the substantive issues and on the practical considerations in deciding whether to bring a legal challenge to such ordinances. In addition, we will examine policy advocacy in the context of homelessness, with a focus on covid issues, food sharing, and affordable housing. It will also begin our consideration of alternative models of legal advocacy.
Description: The ACLU of Florida Greater Miami Chapter is proud to present a new edition to our free Zoom webinar series! The Pottinger v. City of Miami Consent Decree that protected the rights of the Miami homeless for some 20 years was terminated by the local federal court in 2019 - and affirmed in 2021. Ever since, the rights of Miami's least, lost and left behind have been under relentless attack. This deeply-respected and experienced panel of experts will explore the ways in which the rights of the homeless are being violated through property destruction and "street cleanings" and encampment “closings;” recent shameful anti-homeless tactics including various local ordinances that have been passed to force the scattering and concealment of street homelessness; the low/no-income housing crisis that is contributing to homelessness; some of the medical causes and consequences of homelessness; and more.
Moderator: Attorney Benjamin Waxman - 35-year ACLU Miami board member, Attorney at the Law Offices of Black Srebnick, Lead counsel in Pottinger v. City of Miami
This class will evaluate the impact of social change litigation, including why the criminalization of homelessness persists after many years of constitutional challenges in a number of jurisdictions.
David Peery, class representative in the Pottinger litigation from 2013-2020, a Board member at Camillus Health Concern, a Board Member of the National National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and a co-chair of the Council’s National Consumer Advisory Board, will be our guest speaker.
According to University and Law School policy, masks are required at all times including in our classroom. Students must maintain adequate physical distancing and comply with all signage in and around the building. Everyone is expected to behave in a manner that is beneficial to the health and safety of all students, faculty, and staff. Appropriate masks cover the entire nose and mouth, fitting snugly over the face. Students without an appropriate face covering will not be permitted in the classroom.
Students are expressly prohibited from recording any part of this course. Meetings of this course might be recorded by the University. Any recordings will be available to students registered for this class as they are intended to supplement the classroom experience. Students are expected to follow appropriate University policies and maintain the security of passwords used to access recorded lectures. Recordings may not be reproduced, shared with those not enrolled in the class, or uploaded to other online environments. If the instructor or a University of Miami office plans any other uses for the recordings beyond this class, students identifiable in the recordings will be notified to request consent prior to such use.
Disability & Accomodations
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