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Law School Case Brief

Ladue v. Horn - 720 S.W.2d 745 (Mo. Ct. App. 1986)


Generally, federal court decisions hold that a zoning classification based upon a biological or a legal relationship among household members is justifiable under constitutional police powers to protect the public health, safety, morals or welfare of the community.


In July 1981, defendants Joan Horn and E. Terrence Jones purchased a seven-bedroom, four-bathroom house which was located in a single-family residential zone in Ladue, Missouri. Residing in their home were Horn’s two children (aged 16 and 19) and Jones's one child (age 18). The two older children attended out-of-state universities and lived in the house only on a part-time basis. Although defendants were not married, they shared a common bedroom, maintained a joint checking account for the household expenses, ate their meals together, entertained together, and disciplined each other's children. Pursuant to its Zoning Ordinance No. 1175,  plaintiff City of Ladue made demands upon defendants to vacate their home because their household did not comprise a family. Family had been defined by the ordinance as “one or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption, occupying a dwelling unit as an individual housekeeping organization.” When defendants refused to vacate, the City sought to enjoin defendants' continued violation of the zoning ordinance. Defendants counterclaimed, seeking a declaration that the zoning ordinance was constitutionally void. The trial court entered a permanent injunction in favor of the City. The defendants sought a review of the trial court’s judgment.


Was the City of Ladue’s Zoning Ordinance No. 1175, which defined "family" as those related by blood, marriage or adoption, enacted arbitrarily and thus constitutionally void?




The Court of Appeals held that the ordinance clearly restricted the use of the property rather than the character of the structure and that a zoning ordinance was presumed valid. The Court explained that because it was dealing with economic and social legislation and not with a fundamental interest or a suspect classification, the test of constitutionality is whether the ordinance is reasonable and not arbitrary and bears a rational relationship to a permissible state objective. The Court concluded that the City had a legitimate concern with laying out guidelines for land use addressed to family needs and the ordinance was rationally related to its expressed purposes and violated no provisions of the United States and Missouri Constitutions. The City did not act arbitrarily in enacting its zoning ordinance, which defined "family" as those related by blood, marriage or adoption. Affirming, the Court deferred to the City's legislative judgment.  

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