Case No. 01-SC-245, Colorado Supreme Court
ACLU Case No. 2000-01
This case challenges a growing trend in which Colorado cities and counties have been revising their zoning laws so as to exclude foster families and group homes that house sex offenders. On January 27, 2000, the City of Northglenn enacted a new zoning ordinance that redefines the term “family” so as to exclude any household that contains more than one individual who must register as a sex offender. Our clients, Julie and Eusenio Ibarra, are licensed foster parents whose family includes three young boys whose juvenile offenses require them to register. Under the terms of the ordinance, the Ibarras, who have owned their home in Northglenn since 1985, must either move out of town or give up two of their foster children. The City told the Ibarras that they had five days to comply with the ordinance or else a criminal prosecution would begin on February 2. Relying on the Fair Housing Act as well as the Constitution, the ACLU filed suit in federal district court to prevent Northglenn from prosecuting the Ibarras. Judge Matsch granted a temporary restraining order on February 2, 2000, but five days later, he declined to extend the order. With the restraining order dissolved, the City of Northglenn then filed a criminal case in Northglenn Municipal Court charging Julie Ibarra with violating the new zoning ordinance. The ACLU dismissed the federal lawsuit and challenged the Northglenn ordinance by defending Ms. Ibarra in the criminal case. Ms. Ibarra was convicted and fined $750.00. On appeal, the Adams County District Court accepted the ACLU’s arguments. In March, 2001, it ruled that the Northglenn ordinance violated Ms. Ibarra’s constitutional rights. Northglenn appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which held in our favor in a 4-3 decision issued on January 13, 2003. The court’s decision is narrow. Without ruling on the ACLU’s arguments under the Fair Housing Act and the United States Constitution, the court held that Northglenn exceeded its home rule powers under the state constitution because the zoning ordinance affected a matter of state-wide concern: the proper placement of juveniles who are adjudicated as sex offenders under the Colorado Children’s Code.
Mark Silverstein , ACLU of Colorado Legal Director
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