Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio Case Brief

Summary of Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio,431 U.S. 494 (1977)

Facts: East Cleveland’s housing ordinance limited a dwelling unit to members of a single family, but defines that family narrowly. Ms. Moore lived in E.Cleveland with her son and two grandsons who are cousins. One grandson’s parent died immediately before living with Ms. Moore. She rec’d a notice of violation citing illegal occupants b/c her family did not fit w/i the ordinance’s definition. When she failed to remove the occupant, the city filed criminal charges.

Issue(s): Whether a city housing ordinance, a criminal offense, violates the D.P. Cl of the 14th by burdening a P & I or liberty interest regarding the law’s definition of a family unit?

Holding: Yes, the institution of family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, and the choice of relative to live together may not lightly be denied by the state. The Const forbids E. Cleveland from standardizing children and adults by forcing all to live in certain narrowly defined family patterns.

Procedure: Moore moved to dismiss claiming ordinance was constitutionally invalid. Overruled and she was convicted, sentenced to five days and fined $25. Ohio Court App. Affirmed and Ohio S.Ct denied review. U.S.S.Ct. Reversed.

Rule(s): D.P. Cl. of 14th incorporating 1st Amend freedom of association, and Right to Privacy.

Rationale: The law affects related individuals and therefore Belle Terre is distinguished. Regulations which deeply affect and separate a family are not incidental results, it makes a violator a criminal for sustain the family unit. Yet, the family is not beyond regulation. The city’s goal seeking advancement, preventing overcrowding, traffic and parking congestion, and the increased financial burden on the city’s schools are legitimate. But, the ordinance’s goals are served marginally at best b/c other families, as defined, may burden those objectives and are excluded from scrutiny.

DISSENT: J. Stewart :the existence of certain ties to kinship does not elevate either Moore’s claim of associational freedom or her claim of privacy to a level invoking Const’l protection. The association claimed does not relate to speech, assembly, the press, or religion. Sharing a dwelling with family members may involve private family life, it is not equal to any previously identified privacy interests which require protection. This case does not involve a fundamental right.

J. White: Under the means-to-end test liberty may not be interfered with, under guise of protecting public interests, by legislation that arbitrarily or w/o R’bl relation to the stated purpose, but the interest living with more than one set of grandchildren does not fit. There is no need for heightened protection under the D.P. Cl. and E.P.Cl b/c no fundamental right involved.

City’s A: No protection is given to grandmothers as a fundamental right regarding grandsons and the right to live together as a family, deserving constitutional protection, is a grant extending only to a nuclear family. The ordinance has a rational relationship to permissible state objectives.



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