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City of Cuyahoga Falls v. Buckeye Community Hope Foundation

United States Supreme Court
538 U.S. 188 (2003)


The City of Cuyahoga Falls (Cuyahoga) (defendant) called for a referendum on a petition for the repeal of a site-plan ordinance for low-income housing. Buckeye Community Hope Foundation (Buckeye) and other organizations (plaintiffs) with plans for low-income housing that had been approved by the ordinance sued for racial discrimination in federal district court under the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S.C. § 3601. In a related state proceeding, the Supreme Court of Ohio found that Cuyahoga’s use of the referendum violated the Ohio constitution. Consequently, the referendum never went into effect. However, the plaintiffs’ claims remained, challenging Cuyahoga’s submission of the petition to referendum and refusal to issue building permits while the petition was pending. Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the submission of the petition to referendum (1) violated the right to equal protection, because the petition was racially motivated and disproportionately affected racial minorities, and (2) violated substantive due process, because the submission of an administrative land-use determination to a referendum procedure was per se arbitrary. The plaintiffs further argued that the refusal to issue building permits while the petition was pending was similarly discriminatory and arbitrary. The district court granted summary judgment for Cuyahoga, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding genuine issues of material fact. Cuyahoga petitioned to the United States Supreme Court for certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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