The Taft Court (1921–30)

Criminal Justice and Procedure

In what landmark decision did the Taft Court uphold the zoning power of cities?

The Taft Court upheld the zoning power of local officials in Village of Euclid v. Amber Realty Co. (1926) by a 6–3 vote. The Village of Euclid, Ohio, located outside Cleveland, passed a comprehensive zoning law that restricted the types of dwellings that could be built in different areas of the cities. Some areas were deemed residential, while others were deemed industrial. The law further provided for different use, height, and area districts.

Amber Realty Co. owned 68 acres of land in the village. The company sued city officials because the zoning law prevented the development of industrial business on some of their land. The net effect of this, according to Amber, was that it could not sell its land for nearly as much money. The company contended that the zoning law violated its due-process and equal-protection rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the constitutional challenges, writing that the zoning law was a constitutional exercise of the government’s police powers to provide for the public welfare. The law reflected a “rational relation to the health and safety of the community,” wrote Justice George Sutherland for the majority. The zoning laws would help the development of residential areas free from “the disturbing noises incident to increased traffic and business.”

Three justices—Willis Van Devanter, James McReynolds, and Pierce Butler—dissented without writing an opinion.


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