Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio

Decision Date31 May 1977
Docket NumberNo. 75-6289,75-6289
PartiesInez MOORE, Appellant, v. CITY OF EAST CLEVELAND, OHIO
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Appellant lives in her East Cleveland, Ohio, home with her son and two grandsons (who are first cousins). An East Cleveland housing ordinance limits occupancy of a dwelling unit to members of a single family, but defines "family" in such a way that appellant's household does not qualify. Appellant was convicted of a criminal violation of the ordinance. Her conviction was upheld on appeal over her claim that the ordinance is unconstitutional. Appellee city contends that the ordinance should be sustained under Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1, 94 S.Ct. 1536, 39 L.Ed.2d 797 which upheld an ordinance imposing limits on the types of groups that could occupy a single dwelling unit. Held : The judgment is reversed. Pp. 498-506; (opinion of POWELL, J.), pp. 513-521 (opinion of STEVENS, J.).

Reversed.

Mr. Justice POWELL, joined by Mr. Justice BRENNAN, Mr. Justice MARSHALL, and Mr. Justice BLACKMUN, concluded that the ordinance deprived appellant of her liberty in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

(a) This case is distinguishable from Belle Terre, supra, where the ordinance affected only unrelated individuals. The ordinance here expressly selects certain categories of relatives who may live together and declares that others may not, in this instance making it a crime for a grandmother to live with her grandson. P. 498-499.

(b) When the government intrudes on choices concerning family living arrangements, the usual deference to the legislature is inappropriate; and the Court must examine carefully the importance of the governmental interests advanced and the extent to which they are served by the challenged regulation. P. 499.

(c) The ordinance at best has but a tenuous relationship to the objectives cited by the city: avoiding overcrowding, traffic congestion, and an undue financial burden on the school system. Pp. 499-500.

(d) The strong constitutional protection of the sanctity of the family established in numerous decisions of this Court extends to the family choice involved in this case and is not confined within an arbitrary boundary drawn at the limits of the nuclear family (essentially a couple

and their dependent children). Appropriate limits on substantive due process come not from drawing arbitrary lines but from careful "respect for the teachings of history (and) solid recognition of the basic values that underlie our society." Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 501, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 1690, 14 L.Ed.2d 510 (Harlan, J., concurring). The history and tradition of this Nation compel a larger conception of the family. Pp. 500-506.

Mr. Justice STEVENS concluded that under the limited standard of review preserved in Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 47 S.Ct. 114, 71 L.Ed. 303, and Nectow v. Cambridge, 277 U.S. 183, 48 S.Ct. 447, 72 L.Ed. 842, before a zoning ordinance can be declared unconstitutional it must be shown to be clearly arbitrary and unreasonable as having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare; the appellee city has failed totally to explain the need for a rule that would allow a homeowner to have grandchildren live with her if they are brothers but not if they are cousins; and that under that standard appellee city's unprecedented ordinance constitutes a taking of property without due process and without just compensation. Pp. 513-521.

Edward R. Stege, Jr., Cleveland, Ohio, for appellant.

Leonard Young, Cleveland, Ohio, for appellee.

Mr. Justice POWELL announced the judgment of the Court, and delivered an opinion in which Mr. Justice BRENNAN, Mr. Justice MARSHALL, and Mr. Justice BLACKMUN joined.

East Cleveland's housing ordinance, like many throughout the country, limits occupancy of a dwelling unit to members

of a single family. § 1351.02.1 But the ordinance contains an unusual and complicated definitional section that recognizes as a "family" only a few categories of related individuals, § 1341.08.2 Because her family, living together in her home, fits none of those categories, appellant stands convicted of a criminal offense. The question in this case is whether the ordinance violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.3

I

Appellant, Mrs. Inez Moore, lives in her East Cleveland home together with her son, Dale Moore Sr., and her two grandsons, Dale, Jr., and John Moore, Jr. The two boys are first cousins rather than brothers; we are told that John

came to live with his grandmother and with the elder and younger Dale Moores after his mother's death.4

In early 1973, Mrs. Moore received a notice of violation from the city, stating that John 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. Mrs. Moore moved to dismiss, claiming that the ordinance was constitutionally invalid on its face. Her motion was overruled, and upon conviction she was sentenced to five days in jail and a $25 fine. The Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed after giving full consideration to her constitutional claims,5

and the Ohio Supreme Court denied review. We noted probable jurisdiction of her appeal, 425 U.S. 949, 96 S.Ct. 1723, 48 L.Ed.2d 193 (1976).

II

The city argues that our decision in Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1, 94 S.Ct. 1536, 39 L.Ed.2d 797 (1974), requires us to sustain the ordinance attacked here. Belle Terre, like East Cleveland, imposed limits on the types of groups that could occupy a single dwelling unit. Applying the constitutional standard announced in this Court's leading land-use case, Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 47 S.Ct. 114, 71 L.Ed. 303 (1926),6 we sustained the Belle Terre ordinance on the ground that it bore a rational relationship to permissible state objectives.

But one overriding factor sets this case apart from Belle Terre. The ordinance there affected only unrelated individuals. It expressly allowed all who were related by "blood, adoption, or marriage" to live together, and in sustaining the ordinance we were careful to note that it promoted "family needs" and "family values." 416 U.S., at 9, 94 S.Ct., at 1541. East Cleveland, in contrast, has chosen to regulate the occupancy of its housing by slicing deeply into the family itself. This is no mere incidental result of the ordinance. On its face it selects cer-

tain 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.

When a city undertakes such intrusive regulation of the family, neither Belle Terre nor Euclid governs; the usual judicial deference to the legislature is inappropriate. "This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 639-640, 94 S.Ct. 791, 796, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974). A host of cases, tracing their lineage to Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399-401, 43 S.Ct. 625, 626-627, 67 L.Ed. 1042 (1923), and Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-535, 45 S.Ct. 571, 573-574, 69 L.Ed. 1070 (1925), have consistently acknowledged a "private realm of family life which the state cannot enter." Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166, 64 S.Ct. 438, 442, 88 L.Ed. 645 (1944). See, e. g., Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 152-153, 93 S.Ct. 705, 726-727, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 231-233, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 1541-1542, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972); Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651, 92 S.Ct. 1208, 1212, 31 L.Ed.2d 551 (1972); Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U.S. 629, 639, 88 S.Ct. 1274, 1280, 20 L.Ed.2d 195 (1968); Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510 (1965); id., at 495-496, 85 S.Ct. at 1687-1688 (Goldberg, J., concurring); id., at 502-503, 85 S.Ct. at 1691-1692 (White, J., concurring); Poe v. Ullman, 367 U.S. 497, 542-544, 549-553, 81 S.Ct. 1752, 1776-1777, 1780-1782, 6 L.Ed.2d 989 (1961) (Harlan, J., dissenting), cf. Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12, 87 S.Ct. 1817, 1823, 18 L.Ed.2d 1010 (1967); May v. Anderson, 345 U.S. 528, 533, 73 S.Ct. 840, 843, 97 L.Ed. 1221 (1953); Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 1113, 86 L.Ed. 1655 (1942). Of course, the family is not beyond regulation. See Prince v. Massachusetts, supra, 321 U.S. at 166, 64 S.Ct. at 442. But when the government intrudes on choices concerning family living arrangements, this Court must examine carefully the importance of the governmental interests advanced and the extent to which they are served by the challenged regulation. See Poe v. Ullman, supra, 367 U.S., at 554, 81 S.Ct. at 1782 (Harlan, J., dissenting).

When thus examined, this ordinance cannot survive. The city seeks to justify it as a means of preventing over-

crowding, minimizing traffic and parking congestion, and avoiding an undue financial burden on East Cleveland's school system. Although these are legitimate goals, the ordinance before us serves them marginally, at best.7 For example, 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 Mrs. Moore to find another dwelling for her grandson John, simply because of the presence of his uncle and cousin in the...

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