City of Chicago v. Morales

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City of Chicago v. Morales
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued December 9, 1998
Decided June 10, 1999
Full case name City of Chicago, Petitioner v. Jesus Morales, et al.
Citations 527 U.S. 41 (more)
119 S. Ct. 1849; 144 L. Ed. 2d 67; 1999 U.S. LEXIS 4005; 67 U.S.L.W. 4415; 72 A.L.R.5th 665; 99 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4488; 99 Daily Journal DAR 5760; 1999 Colo. J. C.A.R. 3223; 12 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 331
Prior history 177 Ill. 2d 440, 687 N. E. 2d 53, affirmed.
Holding
Chicago's Gang Congregation Ordinance violates due process in that it is impermissibly vague on its face and an arbitrary restriction on personal liberties.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
Majority Stevens (parts I, II, and V), joined by O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer
Concurrence Stevens (parts III, IV, VI), joined by Souter, Ginsburg
Concurrence O'Connor, joined by Breyer
Concurrence Kennedy
Concurrence Breyer
Dissent Scalia
Dissent Thomas, joined by Rehnquist, Scalia
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV

City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that a law cannot be so vague that a person of ordinary intelligence can not figure out what is innocent activity and what is illegal.

Background[edit]

Under the common law, loitering was a crime.

The facts of the case were:

Chicago’s Gang Congregation Ordinance prohibit[ed] "criminal street gang members" from loitering in public places. Under the ordinance, if a police officer observes a person whom he reasonably believes to be a gang member loitering in a public place with one or more persons, he shall order them to disperse. Anyone who does not promptly obey such an order has violated the ordinance. The police department’s General Order 92—4 ... [had a provision] providing for designated, but publicly undisclosed, enforcement areas. Two trial judges upheld the ordinance’s constitutionality, but eleven others ruled it invalid. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the latter cases and reversed the convictions in the former. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ordinance violates due process in that it is impermissibly vague on its face and an arbitrary restriction on personal liberties.

— Summary of the case, City of Chicago v. Morales, Supreme Court of the United States, No. 97—1121. [1]

More specifically, "In 1993, Jesus Morales was arrested and found guilty under the ordinance for loitering in a Chicago neighborhood after he ignored police orders to disperse. Ultimately, after Morales challenged his arrest, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the ordinance violated due process of law in that it is impermissibly vague on its face and an arbitrary restriction on personal liberties."[2][3] The United States Supreme Court affirmed the Supreme Court of Illinois' judgment.[4]

Issue and holding[edit]

The only issue on certiorari was whether the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, either on its face or as applied, in violation of "the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."[2]

The United States Supreme Court held in this case that a law cannot be so vague that a person of ordinary intelligence cannot figure out what is innocent activity and what is illegal.[2][3]

Rationale[edit]

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the plurality, said that the:

ordinance's definition of loitering as "to remain in any one place with no apparent purpose" does not give people adequate notice of what is prohibited and what is permitted, even if a person does not violate the law until he refuses to disperse. "'[A] law fails to meet the requirements of the Due Process Clause if it is so vague and standardless that it leaves the public uncertain as to the conduct it prohibits,'" noted Justice Stevens, "[i]f the loitering is in fact harmless and innocent, the dispersal order itself is an unjustified impairment of liberty."

— Summary by Oyez.com.[2][3]

Six justices ultimately sided with Morales, and three with the City of Chicago.[2] However, only three justices agreed on all of the rationales and the complete holding, namely Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg.[5] O'Connor, Kennedy, and Breyer had concurring opinions.[5] One particular "sticking point" was whether "It is a criminal law that contains no mens rea requirement ... and infringes on constitutionally protected rights...."[5][6] Only Stevens, joined by Justice Souter and Justice Ginsburg, could agree on that.[5][6]

Impact[edit]

The ACLU claimed a win in this case.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cornell Law School website. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e Chicago v. Morales, Docket: 97-1121, Citation: 527 U.S. 41 (1999), from Oyez website. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c See also Audio case files website case brief. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  4. ^ Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 at 51 (1999).
  5. ^ a b c d Summary of Chicago v. Morales at Findlaw.com website. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
  6. ^ a b Summary, Morales, citing Colautti v. Franklin, 439 U. S. 379, 391, 395.
  7. ^ "ACLU Hails Supreme Court Decision Striking Down City's "Anti-Gang Loitering" Law". Retrieved 23 January 2014. 

External links[edit]