Friday, November 15, 2013

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case brief

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case brief summary
536 U.S. 639 (2002)

Respondents challenged the Pilot Project Scholarship Program, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 3313.974-3313.979 (Anderson 1999 and Supp. 2000), as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution. They were granted summary judgment. That judgment was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Petitioners sought review.


  • The State of Ohio established the pilot program to provide educational choices to families with children who reside in the Cleveland City School District. Cleveland's public schools had been among the worst performing public schools in the nation. 
  • The program provided tuition aid for students to attend a participating public or private school of their parent's choosing and tutorial aid for students who chose to remain enrolled in public school. 
  • The Court held that the program was entirely neutral with respect to religion. 
  • It provided benefits directly to a wide spectrum of individuals, defined only by financial need and residence in a particular school district. 
  • It permitted such individuals to exercise genuine choice among options public and private, secular and religious. 
  • The program was therefore a program of true private choice. 
  • In keeping with an unbroken line of decisions rejecting challenges to similar programs, the Court held that the program did not offend the Establishment Clause.


The judgment was reversed.

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