Decision by Judge William Pryor here. It starts like this:
This appeal requires us to decide whether the district court abused its discretion when it terminated a consent decree that regulated how the City of Miami treats its homeless residents. Twenty years after the consent decree’s adoption, the City moved to terminate it based on changed circumstances, fulfillment of its purpose, and substantial compliance with its requirements. The homeless argued the City was still systematically violating the consent decree and moved the district court to hold the City in contempt and sanctioned for committing the violations. The district court ruled the City had not violated the consent decree, granted its motion for termination, and denied the opposing motion for contempt. Because the district court correctly interpreted the decree and did not abuse its discretion by terminating the decree, we affirm.
An 11th Circuit panel on Thursday upheld the termination of long-standing judicial protections for Miami’s homeless population, finding that the city had overhauled its homeless policing to the point where court oversight is no longer warranted.
The homeless protections were in place for two decades as part of the landmark settlement in Pottinger v. City of Miami, a class action that accused the city of unconstitutional mistreatment of its homeless population in the 1980s.
After the city secured a termination of the settlement in Miami district court in 2019, David Peery — on behalf of homeless Miamians — turned to a three-judge appeals panel in the 11th Circuit. Among other protections, Peery fought to reinstate a requirement that police officers offer homeless people a bed in a shelter as an alternative to arrest for certain misdemeanors, such as sleeping on a park bench.
The three-judge panel on Thursday rejected Peery’s appeal.
According to the panel’s opinion, the city showed “substantial compliance” with the Pottinger settlement by retraining its police on how to deal with the homeless people.
“All police officers receive training on Pottinger’s requirements, and the City has put in place body-camera-usage, records-keeping, and disciplinary procedures to monitor and regulate interactions between the police and the homeless, ” Chief U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in a 26-page ruling.
During the appeal proceedings, Peery and his counsel had pointed to a 2018 mass removal of homeless people from the downtown Miami area as key evidence that the city was violating the settlement and couldn’t be trusted to regulate itself regarding its handling of the homeless population.