Enforcement Procedure of Oberlin, Ohio, Fair Housing Ordinance Held Unconstitutional–Porter v. City of Oberlin

Plaintiff, a citizen of Oberlin, Ohio, brought an action for declaratory and injunctive relief to review the constitutionality of the city’s fair housing ordinance, which makes it a misdemeanor to discriminate because of race, creed, or color in the sale or rental of housing. Under the procedure established by the ordinance, the Housing Renewal Commission is directed to make investigations of complaints filed with it. If violations are discovered, the commission must attempt to eliminate the discriminatory practices by conciliation and persuasion. If these efforts fail, the entire record of the matter must be forwarded to the city council, accompanied by the commission’s recommendations. The city council may either dismiss the complaint or refer it to the city solicitor for criminal proceedings. The Common Pleas Court upheld the constitutionality of the entire ordinance. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio, held, reversed as to the section on enforcement, three judges dissenting; otherwise affirmed. The enforcement procedure outlined by the ordinance is an attempt by a municipality to establish adjudicative remedies in contravention of the Ohio Constitution, and is also invalid as lacking sufficient definiteness and certainty to be enforceable.