Law Center Litigation


This notice was authorized by a federal court and is not a solicitation from a lawyer.

Have you ever been arrested or ticketed by the sheriff for panhandling in Montgomery, Alabama? If so, there is a lawsuit that might affect you. This notice explains your rights and the outcome of the lawsuit.

What is this notice about?

In 2019, three people in Montgomery filed a class action lawsuit against the Sheriff of Montgomery County, Alabama, the City of Montgomery, and the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. They challenged two laws that criminalized their ability to ask for help—including food and money—in public places. The case is called Singleton v. Taylor, Case No. 2:20-cv-99-WKW (N.D. Al.). The people who filed the lawsuit have reached an agreement to settle this case with the Sheriff.

Who is included in this class-action lawsuit and settlement?

In a class action lawsuit, one or more people bring claims for themselves and for others in the same legal situation. This lawsuit was filed on behalf of a class of all individuals who may ask for help (aka “panhandle”) in the future. Everyone in these groups is a Class Member. The proposed settlement will affect all Class Members.

If the judge in the federal case thinks the proposed settlement is fair, the judge may approve the settlement. Before that happens, Class Members have a right to provide feedback on the proposed settlement. If you think you are a class member, the following will apply to you.

What rights do Class Members have regarding the proposed settlement?

You may comment on or object to the proposed settlement. The Court will decide whether to approve or reject the proposed settlement after a final hearing, scheduled for September 8, 2022. You should submit your comments before September 4, 2022, to the lawyers for Class Members by email at, by text or phone at (334) 679-6551, or through regular mail at the below address:

The Southern Poverty Law Center

c/o Singleton Settlement

400 Washington Ave.

Montgomery, AL 36104

You may choose to do nothing. If you do nothing, you will still be a Class Member and the settlement will apply to you.

What does the proposed settlement say?

The Montgomery County, Alabama’s Sheriff’s Office can no longer arrest or ticket people in Montgomery County, Alabama under two state laws—Ala. Code § 32-5A-216(b) and Ala. Code § 13A-11-9(a)(1)—that make it a crime to ask for help in public spaces. This settlement is only about the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. It does not address other law enforcement officers such as state or city police officers.

 Will Class Members get any money as part of this case?

No. This lawsuit is to prevent future arrest or citations (or threat of arrest or citation) by the Montgomery County, Alabama’s Sheriff’s Office for asking for help.

What if I have been previously charged with a crime for asking for help?

This settlement does not address any prior charges or convictions for panhandling. It only prevents the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office from enforcing (or threatening to enforce) Ala. Code § 32-5A-216(b) and Ala. Code § 13A-11-9(a)(1) in the future.

Open Cases

With rapidly rising rent prices, many people facing housing insecurity or homelessness take shelter in their vehicles. Vehicles often provide benefits that traditional congregate shelter settings do not, such as autonomy, the ability to store belongings and maintain independence, privacy, proximity to services and community, and freedom to adjust and adapt one’s home to meet one’s needs. On November 15, 2017, a group of San Diego residents who resided primarily in their vehicles brought suit against the City of San Diego in the Southern District of California to challenge two municipal ordinances – one that prohibited living in vehicles and another prohibiting nighttime RV, or “oversized vehicle,” parking. The plaintiffs, a subclass of whom live with disabilities and are therefore unable to access congregate shelter settings because of inaccessibility, had been subject to costly tickets, vehicle impoundment, harassment by law enforcement, and threats of arrest.

On June 7, 2018, the federal judge denied the City’s motion t dismiss the disability-related claims, and in August of 2018, granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing the challenged vehicle habitation ordinance. Following the issuance of the preliminary injunction, the City enacted a new version of the vehicle habitation ordinance that is not subject to the injunction, but which Plaintiffs believe is equally unconstitutional. The litigation is currently pending in the Southern District of California. The National Homelessness Law Center is co-counsel alongside Disability Rights California, Dreher Law Firm, Manfred APC, Bonnet Fairbourn Friedman & Balint PC, and Ann Menasche.

In 2019, three residents of Montgomery, Alabama filed a lawsuit on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated individuals against the Sheriff of Montgomery County, the City of Montgomery, and the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. The lawsuit challenged two laws that applied to Montgomery residents and made it illegal to panhandle, or ask for help, in public places. The plaintiffs made First Amendment claims and were represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Homelessness Law Center. In September of 2022, the Court approved a settlement agreement between the plaintiffs and the Sheriff and City of Montgomery, which provides that the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office can not enforce the challenged state laws (Ala. Code § 32-5A-216(b) and Ala. Code § 13A-11-9(a)(1)) pending a determination of the constitutionality of the challenged laws. The settlement applies only to the Sheriff’s office and the City of Montgomery, and not to the remaining defendants.

Status: As of March, 2023, the case is awaiting an order on summary judgment from the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.


Byrd v. Missouri: Law Center Leads Team of Amici Seeking to Strike Cicero Template from Missouri Law

In 2022, after failing to pass a Cicero Institute template as a standalone bill, the Missouri legislature passed it by quietly appending it to HB 1606, a bill originally about “county financial statements,” near the end of the legislative session.  To ensure that laws of such significance do not pass without careful consideration, the Missouri Constitution guarantees that all legislation addresses a single subject, has a clear title, and retains its original purpose. Those constitutional safeguards were disregarded here, and the result was legislation of staggering importance, pushed by non-Missouri interests, passed without adequate debate and public scrutiny.

On June 20th, the Law Center led a coalition of local and national organizations—ArhCity Defenders, Inc., Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness, Empower Missouri, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and the National Alliance to End Homelessness—in filing a “friend-of-the-court” brief before the Supreme Court of Missouri demanding that the Cicero template language be stricken from HB 1606.  Special thanks to Joseph Begun and Alex Siemers, our pro bono counselors from HALT partner Latham & Watkins LLP, whose efforts resulted in one of the best amici briefs we’ve ever participated in.  We will report the moment Missouri’s highest court rules.

On January 26, 2023, Disability Rights California filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate in state court to challenge the constitutionality of California’s CARE Act. The CARE Act, passed in September of 2022, was passed as a response to the rising homelessness and mental health crises in California, and creates a regime of involuntary and coercive treatment for Californians experiencing mental health-related concerns. In addition to forcing people int treatment against their wishes, the CARE Act system does not require any housing provisions for unhoused people referred to the CARE program, despite the fact that the program is touted by the Governor’s office as a solution to unsheltered homelessness in California.

In February, 2023, the National Homelessness Law Center, ACLU, and the law firm of Sheppard Mullin authored and sent an Amicus Letter to the California Supreme Court in support of DRC’s Petition, arguing primarily that the CARE Act violates due process, fails to adequately address homelessness, undermines the dignity and autonomy of people with disabilities, and perpetuates harmful stereotypes about homelessness and disability. The Amicus Letter was also signed by Public Counsel, Community Legal Aid SoCal, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

On July 22, 2021, the Coalition on Homelessness filed a petition for a writ of mandate and complaint in state court seeking relief from San Francisco’s policy and practice of towing, impounding, and selling vehicles when vehicle owners had unpaid parking violations. San Francisco routinely seized vehicles even when owners were using those vehicles as their primary form of shelter and did not have the means to pay parking tickets. The plaintiffs argued that the City’s towing scheme violated provisions of the California Constitution meant to protect residents against seizures of property and provide due process of law prior to a deprivation of property. The Coalition on Homelessness was represented by Bay Area Legal Aid, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.

In December, 2022, the National Homelessness Law Center, along with FreeForm, UNITE HERE Local 11, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Disability Rights California, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Public Counsel, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, and the law firm of Milbank LLP filed an Amicus Brief in support of the Plaintiffs, arguing that vehicle impoundments of people living in poverty exacerbate street homelessness, impair access to resources, disproportionately target low-income communities, and are ineffective tools to recover debt owed to the City.

In 2020, Denver Homeless Out Loud brought suit against Denver to challenge the City’s encampment sweeps practices and policies. The district court granted the Plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the City from conducting its sweeps until and unless it could come into compliance with due process requirements under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In March of 2022, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the injunction, raising sua sponte the issue of preclusion, based on a 2016 settlement between a different set of Plaintiffs and the City that included a release for the City from all future litigation based on sweeps. Denver Homeless Out Loud filed a petition with the Tenth Circuit for a rehearing en banc, a special kind of proceeding reserved for rare instances in which the Court has made a decision that conflicts with existing precedent and/or when the Court is considering an issue of exceptional importance. The Law Center filed this amicus brief in support of the Plaintiffs’ petition for a rehearing en banc. The Brief argues that because homelessness and encampments are increasing phenomena around the country, and because the preclusion decision forecloses the ability of unhoused Denver residents from accessing the federal court system to vindicate their constitutional rights, the question before the Court is one of exceptional importance.

Amicus Curiae in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellees, Debra Blake, et al. v. City of Grants Pass, Nos. 20-35752 & 20-35881 (U.S. Dist. Ct. App. 2021).

On June 3, 2021, the Law Center, The University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic, and Leilani Farha, submitted an amicus brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the plaintiffs-appellees, Debra Blake, et al. Our brief argued that by excluding people experiencing homelessness from public spaces and subjecting them to fines and fees, Grants Pass has violated fundamental human rights.

Debra Blake, Gloria Johnson, and John Logan, represented by the Oregon Law Center, filed the underlying lawsuit in district court to hold the City of Grants Pass accountable for its violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By excluding people experiencing homelessness from public spaces and subjecting them to fines and fees, the City has created laws punishing the homeless which constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Ultimately, in order to address the underlying causes of homelessness, the city must recognize the right to adequate housing and affirmative measures to enable access to housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Status: Open

Amici Curiae in Support of Appellants, Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Bd. of Educ., No. 1D16-2862 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2016).

On November 4, 2016, the Law Center, Bassuk Center on Homeless and Vulnerable Children and Youth, Disability and Public Benefits Clinic of Florida Coastal School of Law, University of Miami School of Law Children and Youth Law Clinic and pro bono counsel Baker Donelson, submitted an amicus brief to the Florida 1st District Court of Appeal in support of the appellants, Citizens for Strong Schools, represented by Southern Legal Counsel. Our brief argued that Florida is not meeting its constitutional mandate to address the educational needs of homeless Florida students.

Citizens for Strong Schools, represented by Southern Legal Counsel, the Law Center, and pro bono counsel Baker Donelson, filed the underlying lawsuit in state court to hold the state accountable for its failure to meet its constitutional obligation to provide high quality, uniform, safe, secure, and efficient public education to all Florida students. At trial, the Law Center and Baker Donelson argued that the state is failing to meet its obligations under the Florida Constitution to serve the educational needs of homeless students in Florida. After a 4-week bench trial, the trial court found in favor of the state and held that the constitutional provision was not enforceable in court.

On December 13, 2017, the Florida 1st District Court ruled against the Appellants, who are appealing.

Amicus brief is due June 14, 2018.

Status: Open

Amici Curiae in Support of Appellants, Hooper v. City of Seattle, Case No. C17-77RSM (U.S. District Court Western District Oct. 4, 2017)

The Law Center with pro bono counsel Dechert LLP filed an amicus brief in the Plaintiffs’ appeal from denial of class certification in lawsuit filed on behalf of two individual plaintiffs and a putative class of persons subject to sweeps in the City of Seattle. The case was filed in Western District Court of Washington and alleges that the City’s policy and practice in removing encampments violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Law Center, Disability Rights Washington, and other non-profit advocacy groups submitted an amicus brief to the 9th Circuit in support of Plaintiff-Appellant’s 23(f) appeal of the denial of class certification in Hooper v. City of Seattle, Case No. C17-77RSM (U.S. District Court Western District Oct. 4, 2017.) The case, brought by the ACLU-WA, challenges Seattle’s sweeps policy and practices on 4th and 14th Amendment grounds. The brief was filed on June 11, 2018.

Status: Open

Amici Curiae in Support of Appellants, Kohner Properties v. Johnson, No. SC 95944 (MO S.Ct. 2016)

On October 24, 2016 the Law Center, with assistance from pro bono partner, Dechert, LLP, and on behalf of ourselves, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation, Housing Umbrella Group of Florida Legal Services, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Legal Services NYC, National Alliance of HUD Tenants, National Housing Law Project, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, and Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, filed an amicus brief to the Missouri Supreme Court. The underlying case regards a judicially-imposed requirement to pay rent into escrow before a tenant may use an affirmative defense under the warranty of habitability. For low-income renters, this could be prohibitive (e.g. if they have to pay rent into escrow and pay for a hotel due to an uninhabitable apartment at the same time). LaTasha Johnson, the Defendant/Appellant is represented by the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri against Kohner Properties.

Our brief highlights the literature addressing the historical importance of the warranty of habitability and its continued role for economically disadvantaged tenants, how other states have approached the warranty of habitability when used as a defense to an eviction and related due process concerns, the consensus in both domestic and international law regarding tenants’ rights to habitable housing, and the social science literature supporting the conclusion that judicially-crafted protections for (often) low-income renters are essential to protect tenants from housing abuses The case was argued on February 8, 2017 and awaits a decision.

Status: Open

Amici Curiae in Support of Appellants, Manning et. al. v. Caldwell, No. 17-1320 (4th Cir. 2017).

On June 19, 2017, the Law Center together with pro bono partner Latham & Watkins filed an amicus brief in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The underlying case was brought persons experiencing homelessness who are also addicted to alcohol against the city attorneys for Roanoke and Richmond, Virginia. The plaintiffs are represented by Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia. Our brief supports Plaintiffs’ position that Virginia’s Interdiction Statute, which is used to classify alcoholics who are homeless (and thus more likely to drink in public view) as “habitual drunkards” and then repeatedly criminally prosecutes them for possessing, purchasing, or consuming alcohol, is both bad law and bad policy. The amicus reviews both Eighth Amendment case law and notes the outlier status of this statute as one of only two states with such a law, and the many more constructive approaches that could be taken to address the concerns of alcoholism and homelessness. The case was heard January 24, 2018. Skadden argued the case and reported the panel was very harsh, with one judge actively stating the position was wrong. Currently awaiting decision, though not optimistically.

Status: Open

Amici Curiae in support of Plaintiffs Emergency Stay Request, Orange County Catholic Worker, et al. v. Orange County, et al. Case No. 8:18-cv-00155-DOC-(KESx) (C.D. Ca 2018).

On February 12, 2018, the Law Center filed an amicus letter in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The judge invited “written briefing from any amicus groups which may include. .  .service providers . . . and housing organizations” regarding a request for a preliminary injunction against a sweep of the Santa Ana riverbed encampment. The Plaintiffs are represented by Carol Sobel, the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, and Schonbrun, Seplow, Harris & Hoffman.  At Carol Sobel’s request, our letter highlights standards from our encampments report and other information from Housing Not Handcuffs and the DOJ Statement of Interest brief. The motion hearing was February 13, 2018. The judge allowed the sweep to go forward with commitment from the county to ensure alternative shelter/housing for all who were displaced, and threatened a permanent injunction against enforcement of camping ordinances for cities who do not cooperate with resettlement.

Status: Open

Amici Curiae in Support of Appellee, G.S. v. Rose Media School District, No. 17-2886 (3d Cir. 2018)

The Law Center signed on to an amicus brief to the 3rd Circuit filed by the Education Law Center – PA. Homelessness disproportionately affects students with disabilities and parents experiencing homelessness often lack access to counsel and legal resources to protect their rights. After signing a settlement agreement that waived G.S.’s rights to future legal claims under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the school disenrolled G.S. because it held that the family is no longer homeless even though there has been no changes in the student’s living situation. Education Law Center, the Law Center, and other legal advocates urged the 3rd Circuit to find in favor of G.S. because waiving a homeless student’s future educational rights goes against public policy and because state and local educational agencies cannot deny eligibility for McKinney-Vento supports and services based on an arbitrary limit on the length of time a student experiences homelessness. On Nov. 6, 2018, in a non-precedential opinion, the 3rd Circuit ruled in favor of Plaintiffs affirming the family’s right to continue attending school and emphasizing that homelessness has no time limit under the Act. On Monday, January 7, 2019, the Amici filed a new motion requesting the opinion be converted to “precedential,” and await a decision on that motion.

Status: Closed, but motion pending

Amici Curiae in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Summary Judgment, Nat’l Fair Housing Alliance, et al. v. Carson, et al. Case No. 1:18-cv-01076-BAH (D.D.C. 2018)

June 5, 2018, the Law Center joined the National Housing Law Project and other amici to file an amicus brief in the District Court of DC. In the underlying case, NFHA, et al. are challenging HUD’s notice that allows jurisdictions to stop submitting Analyses of Fair Housing (AFHs), as required under the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Regulation. The challenge is under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fair Housing Act. The amicus looks at HUD’s responsibility to affirmatively further fair housing under the Fair Housing Act both historically and these current actions, to argue that the department is acting in purposeful disregard to the law.

Status: Open

Amici curiae in support of Plaintiffs, Garcia et. al. v. City of Los Angeles, Case No. 2:19-cv-06182-DSF-PLA (9th Cir. 2020)

The Law Center supported Plaintiff’s at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asking the Court to uphold a narrow injunction preventing Los Angeles from seizing and trashing “bulky property” of unhoused people based solely on its size. Arguments have not yet been scheduled.

Amici Curiae in Support of the Plaintiffs, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless v. City of Fall River, MA, No. SJC-12914 (Supreme Judicial Court 2020)

In Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless v. City of Fall River, MA, the Law Center, with the pro bono assistance of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. supported the plaintiffs’ arguments against a statewide anti-panhandling statute in the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The Court will hear the case on November 2.

Amici Curiae in support of the plaintiff’s application for certiorari, City of Seattle v. Long, No. 98824-2 (Supreme Ct State of WA 2020)

The Law Center, together with the ACLU of Washington, Washington Defenders Association, Seattle University School of Law Human Rights Advocacy Project, and LoGerfo Garella PLLC submitted a brief in support of the plaintiff’s application for certiorari to the Washington State Supreme Court. The brief asks the Court to review the constitutionality of tows and impounds of vehicle homes without any consideration of the fact that people live in them. The Court has not yet decided whether or not to hear the case.

Amici Curiae in Support of the Plaintiff, Vigue v. Shoar, No. 3:19-cv-186-J-32JBT (Dist. Ct. Middle District of FL Jacksonville Div. 2020)

In a major First Amendment victory, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida has declared Florida Statutes 316.2045 and 337.406—which prohibit the solicitation of charitable contributions on Florida roadways except by charitable organizations or when a local government permit has been issued— unconstitutional.

Closed Cases

Frank v. Walker, 835 F.3d 649 (7th Cir. Aug. 29, 2016)

Ruthelle Frank, and a putative class of individuals who could not obtain photo ID through reasonable efforts sued the State of Wisconsin for violating the Voting Rights Act, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution by requiring a photo ID in order to vote. The Law Center joined with the ACLU of Wisconsin and pro bono partner, Dechert LLP, to represent the Plaintiffs in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

In April 2016, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that anyone who is eligible to vote in Wisconsin, but cannot obtain a qualifying photo ID with reasonable efforts, is entitled to an accommodation. See Frank v. Walker, 819 F.3d 384 (7th Cir. 2016). On remand, the district court issued an injunction that permits any registered voter to declare by affidavit that reasonable effort would not produce a photo ID. The Seventh Circuit then stayed that injunction pending appeal in a decision filed in August 2016, finding that the injunction would likely be reversed on appeal and that disruption of the state’s electoral system in the interim would cause irreparable harm. See Frank v. Walker, 2016 WL 4224616 (7th Cir. Aug. 10, 2016). Plaintiffs petition for initial review en banc was denied. Ruthelle Frank died on June 4, 2017 and counsel did not move to substitute a party.

Martin v. City of Boise (formerly Bell v. City of Boise) case has had an enormous impact across the United States, particularly in the western states, in protecting the rights of unhoused people to sleep and shelter themselves without facing criminal punishment for simply trying to survive on the streets. The Law Center, Idaho Legal Services Inc., and pro bono partner Latham & Watkins originally filed the case in October 2009. The case gained national attention in 2015 when the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest brief in the case, supporting Plaintiffs’ position that making it a crime for people who are homeless to sleep in public places unconstitutionally punishes them for being homeless.  In September 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that it is cruel and unusual punishment to criminalize the simple act of sleeping outside on public property when no alternative adequate shelter exists. In April, 2019, the Ninth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc, and in December 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari brought by the City, letting the 2018 decision stand. The case settled in February 2021, with the city modifying its ordinance, agreeing implement guidance and training for law enforcement, devoting $1.3 million to constructive solutions to homelessness, $435,000 in attorneys fees, and $5000 in damages to plaintiffs.

Status: Settled

2021 02 08 (390) Joint Motion

2021 02 08 (390-1) Exhibit A

2021 02 08 (390-2) Exhibit B

2021 02 08 (390-3) Exhibit C

2021 02 08 (390-4) Exhibit D

On May 12, 2017, three named plaintiffs and a putative class of unsheltered homeless individuals filed suit against the City of Houston in the Southern District of Texas. Plaintiffs are represented by the Law Center, the ACLU of Texas, and pro bono partner, Dechert LLP. The complaint challenges Houston’s anti-camping and anti-panhandling ordinances and alleges that the City violated Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to free speech, Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment, and Fourteenth Amendment right to protection against vagueness.

On September 14, 2018, six homeless plaintiffs sued the City of Puyallup, Washington, and Pierce County for destruction of their property during sweeps of their outdoor encampments. The plaintiffs are represented by the Law Center and Perkins Coie. The complaint alleges that the City and County violated Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable interference with their property interests, and their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. The Law Center, with support of Perkins Coie, later amended the complaint to include a violation of plaintiff’s right to privacy under the Washington State Constitution.

In August 2018, on behalf of three Greensboro, North Carolina, citizens, the Law Center, together with the ACLU of North Carolina and Legal Aid of North Carolina, filed suit against the City of Greensboro for an ordinance to restrict panhandling. The City eventually relented and repealed the ordinance and agreed not to reenact a similar law, and the Law Center and partners withdrew the case in March 2020.

Status: Settled

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