Cuyahoga Falls v. Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, 538 U.S. 188 (2003)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit

No. 01-1269. Argued January 21, 2003—Decided March 25, 2003

After the City Council of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio (hereinafter City), passed a site-plan ordinance authorizing construction of a low-income housing complex by respondents—a nonprofit corporation dedicated to developing affordable housing and related parties—a group of citizens filed a formal petition requesting that the ordinance be repealed or submitted to a popular vote. Pursuant to the City's charter, the referendum petition stayed the site plan's implementation until its approval by the voters. An Ohio court denied respondents an injunction against the petition, and the city engineer, on advice from the city law director, denied their request for building permits. The voters eventually passed the referendum, thus repealing the ordinance. Subsequently, the Ohio Supreme Court declared the referendum invalid under Ohio's Constitution, the City issued the building permits, and construction commenced. While the state litigation was still pending, respondents filed a federal suit against the City and its officials, seeking an injunction ordering the City to issue the building permits, as well as declaratory and monetary relief. They claimed that by submitting the site plan to voters, the City and its officials violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Fair Housing Act. The District Court, inter alia, denied the City's summary judgment motion. After the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the referendum, thus reducing the federal action to a claim for damages for the construction delay, the District Court granted the City and its officials summary judgment. In reversing, the Sixth Circuit found that respondents had produced sufficient evidence to go to trial on the allegation that the City, by allowing the petition to stay the site plan's implementation, gave effect to the racial bias reflected in the public's opposition to the project; that respondents had stated a valid Fair Housing Act claim because the City's actions had a disparate impact based on race and family status; and that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the City had engaged in arbitrary and irrational government conduct in violation of substantive due process.

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