Friday, November 15, 2013

City of Chicago v. Morales case brief

City of Chicago v. Morales case brief summary
527 U.S. 41 (1999)

On a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Illinois, petitioner city contended that its Gang Congregation Ordinance was constitutional and did not fail for vagueness due to a lack of notice of proscribed conduct and for failing to govern law enforcement.

Petitioner city enacted a Gang Congregation Ordinance, which prohibited criminal street gang members from loitering in any public place. The Supreme Court of Illinois struck down the ordinance on the basis that it violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. Constitutional amendment XIV.

  • Upon review, the court agreed with the Illinois Supreme Court and held that the ordinance was unconstitutionally vague. 
  • The ordinance did not meet the fair notice requirement because it did not provide adequate notice of what constituted prohibited conduct. 
  • Because no standard of conduct was specified, at all, by the ordinance, the entire ordinance failed to give the ordinary citizen adequate notice of what was forbidden and what was permitted. 
  • The ordinance also violated the requirement that a legislature establish minimal guidelines to govern law enforcement. 
  • Because the ordinance provided absolute discretion to police officers to determine what activities constituted loitering, the ordinance failed to meet constitutional standards for definitiveness and clarity. 
  • Thus, the ordinance was unconstitutional for vagueness.

The Court affirmed the judgment that the Gang Congregation Ordinance violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and held that it was unconstitutionally vague because it did not provide adequate notice of the proscribed conduct and did not set minimal guidelines for law enforcement.

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