Texas Court Unable To Find Jurors To Uphold $500 Fine For Feeding The Homeless

February 27, 2024

Today's good news story comes from Houston, Texas.

In a significant victory for humanitarian efforts, Food Not Bombs Houston emerged triumphant on Wednesday, February 14, as a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the City of Houston's attempts to impede the nonprofit's mission of providing free meals to the homeless.

food not bombs case
Credit: Food Not Bombs

Over the past year, the nonprofit, dedicated to feeding the homeless, faced a staggering 90 citations from the city for offering free meals near Central Library without official permission. The first jury trial, set for June 1, 2023, saw the state regrouping after the jury ruled in favor of Food Not Bombs. Undeterred, the city persisted, summoning fifteen Houstonians for a new case against the nonprofit.

However, the recent turn of events in the courtroom highlighted the resilience of Food Not Bombs' supporters. 15 potential jurors were set to decide the outcome of a case alleging a violation of Houston law by Elisa Meadows, a woman accused of feeding the homeless without the city's permission.

Roughly an hour later, the jury pool filed back out — all 15 of them. The lawyers had been unable to fill an unbiased jury, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The city's pursuit of fines, seeking a $500 penalty, faced resistance from potential jurors who expressed unwillingness to issue such sanctions even if they found the defendant guilty. Notably, Food Not Bombs Houston has yet to lose a single case, as the city struggled to secure convictions in the face of jury verdicts in favor of the nonprofit.

The turning point came on February 14 when U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued two orders, essentially directing the City of Houston to cease citing volunteers with Food Not Bombs, at least temporarily. The preliminary injunction represents a significant legal win for the nonprofit, reinforcing the principle of providing aid to those in need without unnecessary bureaucratic impediments.

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