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Judge throws out lawsuit against Salt Lake City over homelessness



Salt Lake City, Utah – A lawsuit alleging homelessness against Salt Lake City has been dismissed by a judge.

Judge Andrew Stone of the 3rd District Court dismissed a complaint filed by nine individuals on Wednesday, alleging the city was causing a “nuisance” by not enforcing anti-camping rules.

“They allege that the City has chosen to allow ‘the unsheltered to engage in public camping’ and that this amounts to ‘a public nuisance for which the City is liable,'” Judge Stone wrote.

Using the arguments that the plaintiffs’ claims are precluded by Utah’s public duty doctrine and that they raise “political questions” unsuited for the courts, Salt Lake City requested the action be dismissed. Judge Stone expressed concurrence in his ruling.

“…Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that their claims go beyond illegal activity and encompass other harms such as odor and obstruction of walkways. Yet, their… allegations convey that the inadequacy of police protection and enforcement is their primary context,” he wrote.

The judge continued, saying: “Any given member of the public might complain about how a city allocates its resources, and many such complaints could be articulated under the broad umbrella of nuisance law. The public duty doctrine places limits on when such complaints may be litigated in the courts as opposed to the ballot box.”

The office of Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall was not immediately available for comment regarding the judge’s decision. On Wednesday, a message left for a plaintiffs’ lawyer was not promptly answered.

According to Mayor Mendenhall, her government is tackling the problems of homelessness and affordable housing. Recently, the local and state leaders came to an agreement wherein the anti-camping laws—which Governor Spencer Cox has advocated for—will be enforced so long as shelters have beds available.


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