EUCLID V. AMBLER REALTY, 272 US 365 (1926, MA Hamilton

Tags: police power, Sutherland, constitutional principles
Content: Euclid v. Ambler Realty, 272 U.S. 365 (1926)
Lipscomb and Albert Bergh. Washington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association. Madison, James. 1900­1910. "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments" (1785). In The Writings of James Madison: Comprising His Public Papers and His Private Correspondence, Including Numerous Letters and Documents Now for the First Time Printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt. Vol. 2: 1783­1787. New York: Putnam. McConnell, Michael W. 1999. "Governments, Families, and Power: A Defense of Educational Choice." Connecticut Law Review 31: 847­859. New York Times. 1909. "President Praises Religious Liberty: Mr. Taft Rejoices that America Has Outgrown Intolerance of Its First Settlers." July 6, p. 5. Tushnet, Mark. 1999. "Will Context-Dependent Balancing Do the Job We Want Done?" Connecticut Law Review 31: 861­870. Witte, John, Jr. 2005. Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment: Essential Rights and Liberties. 2nd edition. Boulder, CO: Westview. Marci A. Hamilton EUCLID V. AMBLER REALTY, 272 U.S. 365 (1926) In Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926) a divided U.S. Supreme Court turned down a constitutional challenge to zoning, in turn opening the door to what ultimately proved to be a wide range of land use and environmental regulations. In 1922, the drafters of the first zoning ordinance for the Village of Euclid, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, would never have envisioned that they were setting in motion a legal dispute that would result in more than eighty years of extreme judicial deference to Local Government officials who regulate the use of real property through zoning and other devices. One of those drafters, village attorney James Metzenbaum, would follow an unsuccessful defense of the ordinance in federal district court by a victory in the nation's highest tribunal, despite the cautionary advice of national planning and zoning advocates who were less sanguine about the village's chances. In the 1920s, when several conservative members of the Court had expressed their desire to protect fundamental property rights, there was good reason for the proponents of zoning to be concerned about the constitutional validity of this method of dividing the municipality into uniform districts, each of which is characterized typically by height, area, and use controls. While some American cities had experimented with segregating incompatible land uses, the first truly comprehensive zoning scheme was enacted in New York City in 1916. The idea spread quickly to cities
and towns throughout the nation, including suburbs in Ohio, whose state legislature in 1920 had authorized localities to employ this new device. By November 1922, when Euclid's village council unanimously adopted its initial zoning ordinance, the U.S. Department of Commerce (headed by Secretary Herbert Hoover [1874­1964]) had already circulated a preliminary version of the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act, which would serve as the model for dozens of state statutes over the next few decades. In 1926, as many interested observers awaited the outcome of Euclid, there was ample concern that private property rights would prevail over the perceived public need for land use controls that differed somewhat from traditional health and safety regulations, such as height restrictions. The Ambler Realty Company, which had purchased land in Euclid hoping eventually to sell it for industrial purposes, relied upon Newton D. Baker (1871­1937), a nationally recognized reformer and skillful advocate, who only a few years before had served as secretary of war during the First World War. Ambler's claim was that by zoning part of its sixty-four-acre parcel (lying between the Nickel Plate Railroad and Euclid Avenue, one of the main routes to downtown Cleveland) for nonindustrial uses, it had suffered a financial deprivation in violation of state and federal constitutional due process and equal protection provisions. Buoyed by his success in the Northern District of Ohio (Ambler Realty Co. v. Village of Euclid, 297 F. 307 [N.D. Ohio 1924]), Baker prepared a frontal assault on zoning, alleging its facial unconstitutionality. The opposing counsel faced each other in oral argument on January 27, 1926, before eight justices (Justice George Sutherland [1862­1942] was absent that day). Four months later, the Court announced that it would hear a second oral argument in the fall, the reason for which has been the subject of much speculation over the years. The target of much of that speculation has been Sutherland, the jurist who broke with other members of the conservative bloc (Justices Pierce Butler [1866­1939], James McReynolds, and Willis Van Devanter [1859­ 1941]) when he wrote the Euclid Court's majority opinion in favor of the village and of the zoning concept. Sutherland's carefully crafted opinion has certainly stood the test of time, as its word, phrases, and rationale have been consistently cited with approval in federal and state appellate decisions for more than eighty years. Although the opinion is not formally divided into sections, the majority's discussion fell into five discrete parts. The opinion begins with a detailed explication of the crucial facts regarding the zoning ordinance and its effect on Ambler Realty's parcel, and is followed by a summary of the goals and a procedural roadmap of the landowner's lawsuit. The Court's analysis in the crucial third section seeks to reconcile the permanence of constitutional principles with the rapidly changing conditions of the modern world. After
observing that "building zone laws are of modern origin" and that, "with the great increase and concentration of population, problems have developed, and constantly are developing, which require, and will continue to require, additional restrictions in respect of the use and occupation of private lands in urban communities," Sutherland offers this important distinction: While the meaning of constitutional guaranties never varies, the scope of their application must expand or contract to meet the new and different conditions which are constantly coming within the field of their operation. In a changing world, it is impossible that it should be otherwise. But although a degree of elasticity is thus imparted, not to the meaning, but to the application of constitutional principles, statutes and ordinances, which, after giving due weight to the new conditions, are found clearly not to conform to the Constitution, of course, must fall. This flexible, even organic interpretation of the Constitution has long provided solace for defenders of novel police power regulations, and engendered frustration from their opponents who envision more permanent and concrete constitutional protections from government overreaching. The two closing parts of Sutherland's opinion in Euclid address the crux of the dispute--"The serious question in the case arises over the provisions of the ordinance excluding from residential districts, apartment houses, business houses, retail stores and shops, and other like establishments"--and explain that the Court was only resolving facial challenges, not cases alleging that zoning as applied effected a constitutional violation. In order to answer the "serious question," Sutherland reviews "numerous and conflicting" decisions from state courts that, over the preceding few years, had addressed the validity of height, area, and use zoning. While a few state tribunals had expressed skepticism about whether this was a valid police power tool, Sutherland's rough empirical study of state decisions indicated that "those which broadly sustain the power greatly outnumber those which deny altogether or narrowly limit it; and it is very apparent that there is a constantly increasing tendency in the direction of the broader view." Moreover, because zoning, like so many other Progressive Era governmental programs, had "received much attention at the hands of commissions and experts, and the results of their investigations have been set forth in comprehensive reports," the highly deferential majority felt comfortable in concluding that Ambler Realty's facial challenge fell short of its mark: If these reasons, thus summarized, do not demonstrate the wisdom or sound policy in all
respects of those restrictions which we have indicated as pertinent to the inquiry, at least, the reasons are sufficiently cogent to preclude us from saying, as it must be said before the ordinance can be declared unconstitutional, that such provisions are clearly arbitrary and unreasonable, having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. This "clearly arbitrary and unreasonable" test was one that government would rarely fail. The Court reserved for the future cases in which "the provisions set forth in the ordinance in tedious and minute detail, come to be concretely applied to particular premises." As it would turn out, with the exception of one successful challenge based on the application of a zoning ordinance to a specific piece of property (Nectow v. Cambridge, 277 U.S. 183 [1928]), the Taft Court and its successors would stay out of the zoning review business for the next fifty years. By the late 1970s, when cases such as Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978) reached the Supreme Court, landowners were resorting to an alternative, non-Euclidean strategy for attacking land use and environmental regulation: an expansive interpretation of the Fifth Amendment's takings clause. SEE ALSO Penn Central Transportation Company v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978); Property Rights; Unconstitutional as Applied BIBLIOGRAPHY Toll, Seymour I. 1969. Zoned American. New York: Grossman Publishers. Wolf, Michael Allan. 2008. The Zoning of America: Euclid v. Ambler. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. Michael Allan Wolf EUGENICS Sir Francis Galton (1822­1911), a cousin of Charles Darwin (1809­1882) and a member of a very wealthy and influential family in the United States during the mid1800s, is reported to have been the first person to use the term eugenics. In 1869 Galton wrote a book called Heredity Genius, in which he chronicled the lives of several men from "good families." According to Galton, these good families were more likely than other individuals to have intelligent and talented children. He concluded that it would be possible to produce a highly gifted race of people by simply encouraging people with superior genes to breed. He also believed that if a superior race of people

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