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Moore v. City of East Cleveland

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Significance: The Supreme Court used the doctrine of substantive due process to strike down a local zoning ordinance that prohibited extended families from living together in a single-unit residence.


A residential suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, wanting to maintain its character as a single-family neighborhood, enacted a zoning ordinance that restricted each dwelling to a single family. The ordinance defined a family so narrowly that it did not allow Inex Moore, a grandmother, to live with her two grandsons. When Moore refused to comply with the ordinance, she was sentenced to five days in jail and fined twenty-five dollars. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court held that the ordinance violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a plurality opinion, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., emphasized the importance of “personal choice in matters of marriage and the family,” and he argued that the Fourteenth Amendment protects those liberties that are “deeply rooted in our history and tradition.” He concluded that this tradition was broad enough to encompass various forms of extended families. Powell's opinion significantly extended the scope of the substantive due process approach, and his history and tradition standard has often served as a rationale for subsequent decisions.