settlement_papers_peopleIn Denver Homeless Out Loud v. Denver, _ F.4th _, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 12005 (10th Cir. May 3, 2022), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in a split decision, vacated a preliminary 10th Circuit Spotlightinjunction requiring Denver officials to give advance notice of sweeps to clear out and clean up homeless encampments. In doing so, the appellate court raised sua sponte the preclusive effect of a prior settlement agreement, concluding that “special circumstances” warranted consideration of that issue and deeming the preliminary injunction granted in error because the plaintiffs were unlikely to prevail on a precluded claim. Newly appointed Judge Rossman dissented, describing the majority’s approach as an “unprecedented” and “unwarranted exercise of appellate discretion.”

Case Background

In response to the spread of homeless encampments throughout the city, Denver banned unauthorized camping on public or private property. Denver Homeless Out Loud, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 12005, at *2. Denver officials enforce the ban via “homeless sweeps,” which involve clearing and cleaning up the encampments. Id. at *2-3. In 2016, some of those affected by the sweeps, including the advocacy group Denver Homeless Out Loud (“DHOL”), brought a class action lawsuit, Lyall v. City of Denver, 319 F.R.D. 558 (D. Colo. 2017), against Denver and various officials, alleging violations of their due process rights and other claims. Id. at *3-4. The Lyall parties eventually settled, agreeing to detailed protocols for Denver’s future enforcement of the camping ban and releasing Denver and its officials from present and future liabilities. Id. at *5.