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NYC settles major homeless suit

The suit had dragged on through twenty-three years of intensive judicial management of New York City's homeless programs, which are (in no small part due to that management) by far the nation's most expensive. Homeless advocates claimed victory in getting the city to concede their goal of establishing a broad "right to shelter", a legal concept that has generally not been accepted by courts outside New York. The city, meanwhile, expressed satisfaction that it would be allowed to reassert substantial control over the programs' management, and that some key legal vulnerabilities would be scheduled to sunset in 2010. Sewell Chan in the NYT:

Under the settlement, the parties agreed a new case would be filed and, following a class action settlement hearing, all cases against the city and state, as well as the new one, would be dismissed. The city will regain full control and oversight of its family services system, "no longer having to enforce over 40 highly-detailed court orders or spend precious staff time and agency resources complying with or litigating these cases," City Hall said in a statement.

The classic account of the litigation appeared eleven years ago, by Peter Hellman in City Journal, and is very much worth reading today to get a sense of the extraordinary way in which it transferred power over billions of dollars in municipal expenditures from elected officials to the private lawyers suing the city, most prominently in recent years the Legal Aid Society with the assistance of the celebrated law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. More: Heather Mac Donald, City Journal.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.