This past Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Missouri heard oral arguments on several laws recently passed in the Missouri legislature in order to determine their adherence to the Missouri Constitution. In particular, the Court examined a law that made sleeping on state-owned land a class-C misdemeanor, a provision that was passed as an amendment in a broader bill just before the end of the 2022 session.
The case centers on whether the way the law was passed — as an amendment in a bill pertaining to “political subdivisions” — violates constitutional requirements that legislation have a single subject, clear title, and adhere to its original purpose. Those requirements were designed in part to support transparency and discourage legislative maneuvering to tack amendments that wouldn’t pass as stand-alone bills onto popular bills in order to pass.
Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, along with Public Citizen Litigation Group and a Springfield homeless shelter, filed a lawsuit last year against the state, arguing the homelessness provisions do not fit within the bill’s overarching subject of “relating to political subdivisions.” In March, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Cotton Walker ruled in favor of the state, and the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court. In one of the briefs filed in support of the litigation, an attorney for ArchCity Defenders and a DC-based law firm refer to the law as “legislation of staggering importance, pushed by non-Missouri interests, passed without adequate debate and public scrutiny,” which leads to “criminalization of the most vulnerable Missourians.”
The Missouri Supreme Court has yet to declare judgment on the particular case – the Court typically has two Tuesdays each month on which it might issue decisions, all of which are typically made public at 1 p.m. on the date of release.