Tag Archives: law

City Council extends Sit-Lie until October

This morning, City Council voted 4-1 to extend the term of the sit-lie ordinance until Oct. 23, 2009. Commissioner Amanda Fritz had proposed prolonging the term of the ordinance, which was scheduled to sunset in June, so that she and Commissioner Nick Fish could spearhead a community-wide discussion before deciding what to do with the law in the long term. Last week, council heard testimony from one person in favor of extending the ordinance and more than 20 people opposed to it.

Tobiah Tillman protested the ordinance last week

Tobiah Tillman protested the sit-lie ordinance last week

Commissioner Randy Leonard was the only council member against the temporary extension last week and this morning’s only “no” vote.

“Sometimes our community gets caught up in process for process’ sake, as if process is a means in itself,” Leonard said. “This process that’s being asked for by my colleagues is at the expense of some of the most vulnerable in our community, and I am just appalled.”

He added that he hopes Fritz and Fish will arrive at the same conclusion he has: that the sit-lie ordinance does not work.

Fritz said she does not yet know how she’ll vote on renewing the ordinance in the fall, but she identified issues from last week’s testimony that she wants to address over the next few months.

“I know that a lot of passion has been provoked by this effort (to extend the ordinance),” Fish said. “I’m confident that with the breathing room that has been proposed and the chance to have a broader community conversation, we can come back in 4-5 months (to vote it up or down), and … have a better understanding of the various ways it could be strengthened if it was to go forward.”

City Council will reconsider renewing the ordinance in September.

Posted by Mara Grunbaum

Public argues against extending Sit-Lie

Leo Rhodes

Leo Rhodes

Fritz and Fish insist they need time for further discussion

City Council heard a wave of public testimony this morning against the downtown sit-lie ordinance, which they are considering extending until at least October 23, 2009.

The 2-year-old Sidwalk Obstruction Ordinance was scheduled to expire June 8. A Street Access For Everyone committee report finding that the ordinance was predominantly enforced against homeless people was presented to council in November.

Rather than having the council decide whether or not to renew the controversial ordinance permanently, Commissioner Amanda Fritz proposed prolonging its term to give her and Commissioner Nick Fish — both relatively new to council — time to study the ordinance and discuss it with the wider community.

For the play-by-play: Continue reading

‘Secret list’ clears court case

Judge is apprehensive about the list’s existence, and rules that some offenders must get another option

The Portland Police Bureau’s secret list of frequent downtown arrestees may be problematic, Multnomah County Judge Dale Koch said this morning, but the way prosecutors use the list to determine charges is constitutional. Officer Jeff Myers, who runs the enforcement program that oversees the list, said he does not plan to make any changes in light of the judge’s ruling, but defense attorneys say the the decision leaves the program open to further challenges.

The Neighborhood Livability Crime Enforcement Program (NLCEP) relies on a computer-generated list of people most frequently arrested downtown. More than 400 people are on the list, which Central Precinct Officer Jeff Myers began keeping in 2003. People on the list can be charged more harshly than others arrested for the same offenses. Attorneys representing five defendants challenged the constitutionality of the program and asked that their clients’ felony drug possession charges be reduced to misdemeanors. [See previous Street Roots coverage on the program and the legal proceedings.]

In court this morning, Koch said he could not rule on whether keeping the list itself is legal. He did express concern that the list is restricted to one geographic area and based on arrests rather than convictions, which the defense had argued made the program unconstitutional.

“The right of the city to create such a program is really not at issue here today,” Koch said. “Those are very appropriate questions that are being raised, but those are questions, from my perspective, that are for another day or maybe for another court.”

Instead, Koch ruled on the ways the district attorney’s office uses the list.

Charging felonies instead of misdemeanors solely because defendants are on the NLCEP list would not be constitutional, Koch said, because the DA cannot let another agency, like the Police Bureau, make those decisions. However, because deputy district attorneys review each defendant’s criminal background before making the charges, Koch found the use of the list legal. He did not reduce the defendants’ charges to misdemeanors. But “there is no question that some people who are situated similarly have been treated somewhat differently,” he said.

Prosecutors had also been using appearance on the list to preclude people from participating in STOP Court, a supervised drug diversion program. Defendants who successfully complete the program have the charges against them dropped. The district attorney excluded those on the list from STOP Court because they were considered unlikely to complete it.

However, Koch ruled that appearance on the NLCEP list is not sufficient reason to exclude people from STOP Court. The three defendants without prior felony convictions must be given the choice to enter STOP Court instead of proceeding to trial, he said. The other two will go to trial with felony charges because of their records of felony convictions.

“We do individually review every criminal history when a case comes in,” prosecutor David Hannon said after the ruling. “That’s our responsibility as prosecutors. We are not ceding all our responsibilities to NLCEP.”

No defendants on the NLCEP list have had felony charges reduced to misdemeanors when they were reviewed, Hannon said, but there have been cases where defendants without previous felonies were allowed to enter STOP court.

Koch’s ruling does not require the police to change their enforcement practices.

“I’m obviously happy with the outcome,” Myers told reporters outside the courtroom. “It gives us an opportunity to continue as we have been.” The NLCEP will remain the same, he said, but “we’re always open to criticism.”

But Elden Rosenthal, the ACLU-affiliated attorney who led the defense, said the judge’s ruling vindicated the defense’s position that mandatory prosecution based on status on the list is unconstitutional.

“I think it’s very important that Portland recognized that there was this secret list that was affecting the civil rights of people in this city,” he said. “The judge said that it’s inappropriate to have a secret list based on arrests.”

Rosenthal said other uses of the list may now be open to legal challenge, but he hoped NLCEP’s stakeholders would work on amending the program before it came to litigation. When told that Myers did not intend to do so, he said, “That’s unfortunate. I hope that cooler heads will think about this once the dust has settled.”

City council will vote tomorrow on whether or not to renew the one-time funding for the Service Coordination Team, of which the NLCEP is part.

City’s new anti-camping policy drawing fire

Posted Dec. 3, 2008

campingban

Word is getting around about the city’s new camping ordinance guidelines as reported in the latest Street Roots. Reporter Amanda Waldroupe sheds light on new procedures that slipped under the radar as the city touted shelters, warming centers and assorted good-n-fuzzies. But the truth is, the city is expanding its opportunities to roust and displace, without notice, the growing number of our neighbors trying to stay warm, dry and safe at night. This, even as the city says shelter providers report about a 50 percent increase in the numbers of families seeking shelter.

Loaded Orygun adds great commentary to the subject. Read it here, and lend your voice to the discussion.

Read “New guidelines waive 24-hour notices to homeless campers” after the jump

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

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