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Law School Case Brief

Moore v. E. Cleveland - 431 U.S. 494, 97 S. Ct. 1932 (1977)


Appropriate limits on substantive due process come not from drawing arbitrary lines but rather from careful respect for the teachings of history and solid recognition of the basic values that underlie our society. The sanctity of the family exists because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in U.S. history and tradition.


Appellant argued that appellee municipality's housing ordinance, which categorized a second grandchild living in appellant's home as an illegal occupant, violated the Due Process Clause of U.S. Const. amend. XIV. Appellant sought review of a judgment of the Court of Appeals, which affirmed that Appellant was convicted of violating the city ordinance. The Supreme Court reversed.


Does the the ordinance violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?




The court agreed, saying that the ordinance bore no rational relationship to permissible state objectives. This ordinance did not distinguish between related and unrelated individuals, the court explained, but sliced into the family and regulated what categories of relatives might live together. Such intrusion into family life was not constitutionally protected. Rejecting arguments that the ordinance served to prevent overcrowding, minimize traffic, and avoid burdening the public school system, the court held that the provision had but a tenuous relation to the alleviation of these objectives. Nor was the constitutional right to live together as a family limited to the nuclear family, the court ruled, as the extended family traditionally played a role in providing sustenance and security. Cutting off protection of family rights at the first convenient boundary, the nuclear family, was arbitrary and could not be justified.


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