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NM Supreme Court hears Albuquerque encampment case

Last year, Albuquerque authorities closed an encampment in the city's Coronado Park
Gino Gutierrez
Source NM
Last year, Albuquerque authorities closed an encampment in the city's Coronado Park

A Bernalillo County District Court Judge ruled back in September that the City of Albuquerque was violating unhoused people’s 8th Amendment rights by clearing encampments when those who are camping essentially don’t have anywhere else to go.

The city took that injunction to the New Mexico Supreme Court Wednesday.

The court injunction states that people experiencing homelessness have a right to be somewhere, and as long as there aren’t enough shelter beds for them, that can include public property, with some restrictions.

Attorney John Anderson represented the city, saying the court order was not clear and prevented the city from carrying out its duty to keep citizens safe.

“It's certainly not inevitable to exist in one particular place so that the city could close a park, for example, and say, ‘you may have to sleep somewhere, but you don't have to sleep in this park,’” Anderson said.

But Attorney Martha Mulvany of law firm Ives and Flores, which is representing unhoused citizens along with the ACLU in the case, disagreed.

“The city has petitioned this court for emergency relief based on a gross misrepresentation of the facts and the law in this case as well as a mischaracterization of the consequences of the district courts carefully considered preliminary order,” she said.

Chief Justice Shannon Bacon observed that the court order by Judge Joshua Allison has very similar language to existing city ordinances regarding when an encampment can be cleared, and said that she’d only heard just before this hearing that the district court has another hearing in the case scheduled for next month.

“What are we doing here today, given that this is a moving target? Nothing is set in stone yet. Why would we rule now and then have Allison change his order?” Bacon said.

The case is under advisement and the Supreme Court has not yet indicated when it will have a decision.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. 

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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