ACLU of Ohio Files Mandamus to Strike Ruling that Bans Homeless Encampments In Hamilton County
CINCINNATI — The ACLU of Ohio filed suit this morning against a judge on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, who issued an unlawful injunction in State ex rel. Deters v City of Cincinnati to ban homeless encampments in all of Hamilton County. The ACLU filed the mandamus action in the First District Court of Appeals on behalf of New Prospect Baptist Church, a church who is harmed by the injunction.
On August 6, County Prosecutor Deters brought a lawsuit against the City of Cincinnati, at the City’s request, asserting that one specific homeless encampment on Third Street constituted a “nuisance” under Ohio Law. Just 10 days later, on August 16, Judge Ruehlman issued a permanent ban across the entire county, affecting countless people and groups, including the New Prospect Baptist Church who had no opportunity to participate in the case or address the court before the injunction took effect.
“The sweeping County-wide ban is illegal and must be overturned,” said Joe Mead, volunteer attorney for the ACLU of Ohio. “The judge lacked the jurisdiction to issue this unlawful, improper, and overbroad ban. It also does nothing to address the extremely high rates of homelessness in Hamilton County.”
New Prospect Baptist Church serves people in need and has offered its privately-owned property to people experiencing homelessness in need of a place to stay, yet the ban mandates that anyone maintaining such an encampment should be arrested. “The injunction stands as a roadblock between New Prospect and its mission to provide aid for people experiencing homelessness. According to the ban, New Prospect’s religious mission, conducted charitably on private property, is now considered a criminal act,” noted Mead.
“Arresting people for seeking shelter in a tent will not address the problem. Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials cannot criminalize and ban their way out of this crisis using a manufactured lawsuit, and should be working to find proactive, safe, and just housing solutions for all its residents,” concluded Mead.
A writ of mandamus allows impacted groups to initiate a new action in the court of appeals to seek redress from a lower court order. New Prospect asks the appellate court to direct the lower court to withdraw the unlawful injunction.