Attorneys for the City of Boulder are asking a Boulder County District Court judge to deny a request by civil rights lawyers to issue a partial judgment in their camping ban lawsuit, claiming key facts are disputed. A partial judgment could result in an order barring the city from enforcing the law.

In Boulder’s latest court filing on the high-profile camping ban case, its lawyers said the city denies that police officers have enforced the camping ban on “many nights” when the city’s main shelter in North Boulder — the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless — was at capacity and had to turn people away. The city also disputes that the three homeless people named as plaintiffs in the case were unable to sleep at the shelter.

Such details matter in this case. Courts have ruled that punishing someone for sleeping in a public space when they have nowhere else to go violates their civil rights. An analysis of City of Boulder police records by Boulder Reporting Lab in 2022 found officers wrote at least a dozen tickets for illegal camping or possession of a tent on days the city’s largest shelter turned people away due to capacity, or the following day.

The lawsuit, filed in May 2022 by ACLU of Colorado, seeks to halt enforcement of the city’s camping ban. Plaintiffs have said the city has admitted to enough “key factual allegations” to support their claim that Boulder’s camping ban violates a prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Colorado Constitution. They have asked a judge to declare the city’s camping ban as a violation of the state constitution and to halt its enforcement “when unhoused individuals cannot access indoor shelter.”

The city is also asking that any preliminary injunction only apply to the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, not all homeless people in Boulder, according to its recent filing.

The plaintiffs will have a chance to respond to the city’s latest filing before a judge weighs in.  If their motion is denied, the case could still go to trial.

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