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Moore v. City of East Cleveland

    Brief Fact Summary. The City of East Cleveland adopted a housing ordinance, which limited the occupancy of a dwelling unit to a single family. The ordinance had an unusual definition of a family, which recognized only a few categories of related individuals.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When the government intrudes on choices concerning family living arrangements, the court will examine carefully the importance of the governmental interests advanced and the extent to which they are served by the challenged regulation.

    Facts. The City of East Cleveland adopted a housing ordinance, which limited the occupancy of a dwelling unit to a single family. The ordinance had an unusual definition of what constituted a family, which recognized only a few categories of related individuals and had the effect of making it illegal for Moore (Appellant) to live with her grandsons where she lived with her son, his son, and another grandson. In 1973, Moore received a notice of violation from the City, stating that the grandson who was not her son’s son was an “illegal occupant” and directed Appellant to comply with the ordinance. The City then filed a criminal charge when Appellant refused to remove the grandson. Appellant was convicted and sentenced to five days in jail and a $25.00 fine. The Court of Appeals of Ohio affirmed after considering Appellant’s claims that the ordinance violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court of Ohio denied review. The Supreme Court of the United Sta
    tes noted probable jurisdiction and reviewed the case.

    Issue. Is the ordinance constitutional?

    Held. No. Reversed.
    The Court first distinguished this case from the facts of Village of Belle Terre v. Borass, by noting that one overriding factor set the cases apart. In that case, the ordinance expressly allowed all people who were related by blood, adoption or marriage to live together, and in sustaining the ordinance the court was careful to note that the ordinance promoted “family needs” and “family values.”
    When a city undertakes such intrusive regulation of the family, neither Belle Terre nor Euclid v. Ambler, governs; the usual judicial deference to the legislature is inappropriate. When the government intrudes on choices concerning family living arrangements, the court will carefully examine the importance of the governmental interests advanced and the extent to which they are served by the challenged regulation.
    Prior decisions establish that the United States Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.
    The tradition of uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents sharing a household along with parents has deep roots, which are worth of constitutional protection.

    Dissent. Freedom of association is not an applicable doctrine upon which to decide this case.

    Discussion. This case is illustrative of the results of the rule set down in Belle Terre v. Borass, which gave such wide deference to the police power of the legislative function. The rule there upheld the constitutionality of an ordinance, which did not make any allowance for non-traditional family units.


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