Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas

PETITIONER: Village of Belle Terre, et al.
RESPONDENT: Bruce Boraas, et al.
LOCATION: Belle Terre, NY

DOCKET NO.: 73-191
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 416 US 1 (1974)
ARGUED: Feb 19, 1974 / Feb 20, 1974
DECIDED: Apr 01, 1974
GRANTED: Oct 15, 1973

ADVOCATES:
Bernard E. Gegan - for appellants
Lawrence G. Sager - for appellees

Facts of the case

The Village of Belle Terre in New York had an ordinance restricting land use to one-family dwellings. The statute’s meaning of “family” was one or more related persons or not more than two unrelated people. The appellees owned a house and leased it to unrelated people, in violation of the Village’s ordinance. When the Village asked the respondents to remedy the violation, the homeowners sued the Village seeking a judgment that declared the ordinance unconstitutional because it violated the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by interfering with the right to travel and by expressing impermissible social preferences. The district court held the ordinance was constitutional, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. The appellate court determined that the ordinance was an attempt to ensure that residents conformed to social preferences of living style and had no relevance to public health, safety, or welfare.

Question

Does an ordinance restricting land use to “one-family” dwellings violate the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 20, 1974 in Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 19, 1974 in Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 01, 1974 in Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas

Warren E. Burger:

The disposition in number 73-191, Village of Belle Terre against Boraas will be announced by Mr. Justice Douglas.

William O. Douglas:

This case involves questions under a village ordinance enacted in New York villages, Village of Belle Terre on Long Island.

It is a small village of about 700 people.

It has an ordinance that restricts an area to family resident roots.

It includes in the definition of the word ‘family’, one or more persons related by blood, adoption or marriage, and also two unrelated persons living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit.

The owner of the house in question, leased it to six college students who were not related, and the proceeding is brought ahead for violation, starting the violation of the ordinance.

Hence, this action was then brought to declare the ordinance unconstitutional if violative of the Equal Protection Clause and other constitutional rights.

The District court held the ordinance unconstitutional and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

We have reversed the Court of Appeals holding that this zoning ordinance is lower than the limits of the police power.

It’s not countered upon the racial basis and not involving a discrimination in a constitutional sense.

The views are expressed in an opinion filed with the clerk.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion and Mr. Justice Marshall has filed a separated dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Douglas.