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City of Chi. v. Morales - 177 Ill. 2d 440, 227 Ill. Dec. 130, 687 N.E.2d 53 (1997)

Rule:

The freedom to engage in harmless activities is an aspect of the personal liberties protected by the due process clause, U.S. Const. amends. V, XIV. Among those protected personal liberties are the general right to travel, the right to freedom of movement, and the general right to associate with others. A gang loitering ordinance impedes upon all of these personal liberty interests. Governmental actions which intrude upon personal liberties arbitrarily or in an utterly unreasonable manner violate the due process clause.

Facts:

In May 1992, the city council of defendant City of Chicago ("City") held hearings to explore the problems criminal street gangs present for the City’s residents. As a result of the hearings, the council enacted the Gang Congregation Ordinance, more commonly known as the "gang loitering ordinance." The ordinance provided that "whenever a police officer observed a person whom he reasonably believed to be a criminal street gang member loitering in any public place with one or more other persons, he shall order all such persons to disperse and remove themselves from the area." Any person who did not promptly obey such an order would violate the ordinance. Defendant Jesus Morales and others were charged with violating the ordinance after they refused to comply with police orders to disperse. The trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss the City's actions against them, finding the ordinance unconstitutionally vague. An Illinois appellate court affirmed, holding the ordinance unconstitutional. The City sought further review.

Issue:

Was the "Gang Congregation Ordinance" unconstitutional for being vague?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court affirmed the determination that the ordinance was impermissibly vague and violated defendants' substantive due process rights. The court held that the freedom to engage in harmless activities was an aspect of the personal liberties protected by the due process clause, U.S. Const. amends. V, XIV, and included the general right to travel, the right to freedom of movement, and the general right to associate with others. The court held that where an underlying statute was impermissibly vague, as the gang loitering ordinance was, defendants could not be convicted based upon failure to obey the order of a police officer pursuant to that ordinance.

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