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City of Cleburne, Texas v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioner, City of Cleburne (Petitioner), denied a special use permit to the Respondent, Cleburne Living Center (Respondent), for the establishment of a group home for the mentally retarded in the community. The Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit determined that this group is a “quasi-suspect” class and that the ordinance violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Legislation that distinguishes between the mentally retarded and others must be rationally related to a legitimate governmental purpose.

    Facts. The Respondent bought a property from a private owner with the intention of starting a group home for the mentally retarded. It was expected that 13 persons would reside in the house of 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. Petitioner required Respondent to apply for a special use permit and then denied the application.

    Issue. Is the mentally retarded part of a “quasi-suspect” class subject to a higher scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause?
    Is the special use permit requirement constitutional?

    Held. No. This is a group that has political clout and has not suffered from prejudice in the past.
    No. There is no rational basis for requiring this particular group home to have a permit when other similar arrangements are not required to do so. It is clear that the only reason this permit was required was because the mentally retarded were involved.

    Discussion. The mentally retarded do not qualify as a suspect or quasi-suspect class because the lack of history of discrimination and they are not politically powerless. As a group they have been able to attract the attention of lawmakers on several issues.


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