Supreme Court rules in favor of local homeless encampment laws and overturns the vast regulatory authority of feds in ‘Chevron doctrine’ decision

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Two major Supreme Court decisions were issued on Friday morning that impact Alaska.

In the first, the court ruled that the city of Grant Pass, Oregon (and others) can enforce a ban on public squatting on city properties, and that such bans do not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The court majority opinion, written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, said that the enforcement of laws regulating camping on public property is “commonplace” and not barred by the Eighth Amendment.

Gorsuch wrote that while homelessness is a complex issue, the city’s limited fines for first-time offenders, the ability to trespass repeat offenders from public parks, and a maximum of 30 days in jail for violators are punishments that don’t bring “terror, pain or disgrace.”

As is often the case, the three liberal women on the court dissented.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor called sleeping a “biological necessity, not a crime,” and wrote that for people with no homes, the city’s laws punish them for the status of being homeless. “That is unconscionable and unconstitutional,” she wrote. She was joined in her dissent by Justices Elena Kana and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

But the conservatives on the court cited an amicus brief from liberal California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and said that “policymakers need access to the full panoply of tools in the policy toolbox,” and need latitude to work through the complicated issues of homelessness.

The high court said that previous rulings by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a Boise, Idaho case and in the Grants Pass case, which had limited what municipalities could do in terms of banning public encampments on streets, parks, and sidewalks, may have actually increased the homelessness problem by taking away one important tool for cities that are responding to the growing crises in homelessness.

“In Portland, for example, residents report some unsheltered persons ‘often return within days’ of an encampment’s clearing,” Gorsuch wrote. And there wasn’t anything Portland could do about it, due to the Ninth Circuit ruling.

Anchorage had signed onto the lawsuit with several other cities in support of Grants Pass. That brief is at this link.

In a second case that impacts Alaska, the Supreme Court overturned what is known as the “Chevron doctrine.”

In a 1984 decision, Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the Supreme Court had said that courts should defer to an agency’s “reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute.” That gave license to bureaucrats to interpret laws their own way.

Now, in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, the Supreme Court has held that courts may not grant those vast powers of interpretation to agencies, simply because a law is ambiguous.

Critics of that Chevron ruling say it gives unelected federal bureaucrats too much power in writing regulations. Regulatory overreach has stopped or slowed down projects in Alaska such as Willow and this ruling may even impact EPA decisions on Pebble Project and the Ambler Road to the proposed mining areas.

The case that ended up overturning Chevron Deference Doctrine involved a 2020 federal regulation that requires owners of fishing vessels in the Atlantic herring fishery to pay for federal onboard monitors while they’re at sea, which can cost more than $700 a day per vessel.

The National Marine Fisheries Service had created the rule under a 1976 law to force the cost of monitoring back on the fishing vessels. But the Alantic ishing fleet challenged the regulation, saying the fisheries service lacked the authority to mandate the industry to pay for the monitoring the NMFS was requiring.

“Chevron is overruled. Courts must exercise their independent judgment in deciding whether an agency has acted within its statutory authority, as the [Administrative Procedure Act] requires,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority opinion, adding that the Chevron decision was a “judicial invention that required judges to disregard their statutory duties” to be the ones who interpret the laws passed by Congress or other jurisdictions.

The three liberal women justices — Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson — dissented in this ruling as well, siding with the Biden Administration, which asked the Supreme Court to leave Chevron deference intact. The Justice Department argued that the Chevron doctrine framework allows “experts” at federal agencies, who are more knowledgeable than judges, to interpret statutes.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Laws that created these agencies need to be thrown out and the agencies abolished. The EPA has become one big bureaucracy that has one purpose and that is to perpetuate it’s existence. The NEA, the IRS and many others are equally bad.

  2. Dang.
    On the very last working day of the Bronson administration. I’m sorry the first ruling came so late.

    Does anybody think LaFrance will actually hold homeless persons accountable for anything? Or will they continue to be used and abused by the “public servants” who professionally milk the system as Anchorage slips into further disarray?

    • “…….Does anybody think LaFrance will actually hold homeless persons accountable for anything?…….”
      As I read the summaries of the ruling, it appears that all the whining and carping by homeless advocates just went into the shredder. Localities can force the homeless to leave classified managed public lands. Period.
      As you wonder, what stops a local government like Anchorages from ignoring the riuing?
      Lawsuits.
      If a business has a homeless encampment on the sidewalk along their property or a collectionnif homeowners have a homeless encampment in the neighborhood park, they are financially damaged. They have standing. Sue the city, then make them pay the attorney costs for suing them.

  3. Good for both. Especially Chevron.
    Too much power in the hands of unelected swamp dwellers.

    Congress needs to do the unthinkable: their jobs.

  4. Overruling the Chevron doctrine is HUGE!

    This is the most important Supreme Court ruling about the structure and function of the government in decades. It puts an end to the unencumbered domination of our system of laws by the unelected bureaucracy. Beginning with the Chevron decision in the mid-1980s I’ve watched with alarm, their creeping overreach of dreaming up crippling regulations that have hamstrung Alaska’s industry, fishing, land use, water use, personal rights – heck, almost every part of daily lives.

    It will be interesting to watch what happens next. Congress, instead of just packing every bill with personal spending “ornaments”, may actually have to spend their time writing specific legislation rather than just waving their hands and passing it on to the bureaucrats.

    Never forget EPA’s two-flush toilets!

  5. am I reading this right…
    Sounds like now the muni can fine and arrest for sleeping/encampment now?

    Go Mr Bronson you have 2 days!

  6. Lisa murkowski rigged elections have serious consequences lafrance murkowsi peltola all 100% fakes rigged. GOD is watching OATH BREAKERS SO HELP THEM GOD FAKE SUCKS

  7. The photo is not of the homeless living in the trees under tarps. Those are RVs, as derelict as they may be. Those ordinances would fall under illegal parking. The truly homeless, the Thunderdome residents, will need to move into a shelter, or move along.

  8. YES!

    Now. Re-open the prison in Sutton.

    Time to enforce laws and start issuing citations for illegal camping, ROW infractions, littering, and vagrancy.

    It is not a crime to be homeless. But it is a crime to break the aforementioned laws.

    • “……..Re-open the prison in Sutton……..”
      YES!!! Fill it up with either people needing shelter or criminals needing separation from society. Then build more prisons. ASAP.

  9. Fantastic! Unelected officials, get rinsed! Go back home and play Sims if you want to satisfy your power fantasies.

  10. Solid, sensible decisions in both cases. For all you yippers and yappers (and especially the ever tedious and whining Masked Avenger), who comment in MRA stories frequently about how the judiciary is inhabited by judges and/or justices that get it wrong, take not that all is not lost. The Chief Justice and Justice Gorsuch and a solid majority got these two very important decisions right.
    There’s still heath on the mirror in our constitutional republic.
    Onward!

  11. A lot of good decisions out of the Court this term. Yes, they punted on some but the momentum is in the right direction. An ocean liner doesn’t turn around on a dime.

  12. Someone should notify the Assembly they no longer have any excuses. “We could restrict panhandling and loitering, but we’d lose in court!”

    Supreme Court just gave you their blessing, assemblymen.
    We know its more fun rezoning our neighborhoods into slums, but now its time to put up or shut up.

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