Media Contact

ACLU of Florida media office, 

September 21, 2020

The historic agreement protected the rights of people experiencing homelessness in Miami

WHAT: Oral arguments for the historic Pottinger consent decree, which was the result of a lawsuit (Pottinger v. City of Miami, now known as Peery v. City of Miami), will take place on September 22. 

The litigation was originally filed by the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU of Florida in 1988 on behalf of more than 8,000 homeless persons living in the city, and was approved by a federal court in 1998 based on a finding of intentional and systematic violations of the constitutional rights of homeless persons by the City of Miami. The landmark settlement won after a decade of litigation – involving two trials, two appeals, and nearly two years of mediation – protected homeless individuals from being harassed or arrested by law enforcement for the purpose of driving them from public areas.

In February 2019, a federal court denied a motion to hold the City in contempt for violating the decree through a series of sweeps banishing homeless persons from encampments and destroying their IDs, medicine, clothes, and other essential belongings. The court also terminated the Pottinger consent decree. For twenty years while the agreement was in effect, the City of Miami dedicated resources to provide housing and services to people experiencing homelessness. Local law enforcement also received critical training on how to work with individuals compassionately and humanely. However, although the Pottinger agreement was in place, advocates and homeless rights organizations argued that the City of Miami continued to violate the constitutional rights of people experiencing homelessness, including having their property destroyed, banishment from certain areas in the city, and arrests for engaging in “life sustaining misdemeanor conduct” without offering shelter or assistance, as required by the Pottinger Agreement.  

Benjamin Waxman will present arguments challenging the 2019 court decision denying the motion to hold the City in contempt and granting the City’s motion to terminate the Pottinger consent decree.

WHO: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida’s Greater Miami Chapter, the ACLU of Florida, and the Florida Justice Institute. 

WHEN: September 22, 9:00am (Court begins at 9am, and Peery is the second case to be argued)