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Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio

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Brief Fact Summary.

East Cleveland’s housing ordinance, like many throughout the country, limits occupancy of a dwelling unit to members of a single family. But the ordinance contains an unusual and complicated definitional section that recognizes a family only a few categories of related individuals. Because her family, living together in her home, fits none of those categories, appellant stands convicted of a criminal offense.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The Court concluded that the act unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.

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Facts.

East Cleveland’s housing ordinance limits occupancy of a dwelling unit to members of a single family. But the ordinance contains an unusual and complicated definitional section that recognizes a family only a few categories of related individuals. Because her family, living together in her home, fits none of those categories, appellant stands convictedof a criminal offense. In 1971, Moore received a notice of violation from the city, stating that he was an illegal occupant and directing her to comply with the ordinance. When she failed to remove him from her home, the city filed a criminal charge. Upon her conviction, Moore was sentenced to five days in jail and a $25 fine.

Issue.

  1. Does the ordinance that limits occupancy of a dwelling unit to members of a single family violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Held.

Yes, the ordinance violates the Constitution. Although the city’s interests are legitimate goals, the ordinance serves them marginally, at best. East Cleveland has chosen to regulate the occupancy of its housing by slicing deeply into the family itself. On its face it selects certain categories of relatives who may live together and declares that others may not. In particular, it makes a crime of a grandmother’s choice to live with her grandson in circumstances like those presented here.a

Concurrence.

Justice Stevens

East Cleveland’s unprecedented ordinance constitutes a taking of property without due process and without just compensation.

Discussion.

The ordinance permits any family consisting only of husband, wife, and unmarried children to live together, even if the family contains a half dozen licensed drivers, each with his or her own car. At the same time, it forbids an adult brother and sister to share a household, even if both faithfully use public transportation. The ordinance would permit a grandmother to live with a single dependent son and children, even if his school-age children number a dozen, yet it forces Moore to find another dwelling for her grandson John, simply because of the presence of his uncle and cousin in the same household. The Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition. It is through the family that we inculcate and pass down may of our most cherished values, moral and cultural.


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