The Burger Court (1981-1986). Seated, from left to right: Justices Thurgood Marshall and William J. Brennan, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, and Justices Byron R. White and Harry Blackmun. Standing, from left to right: Justices John Paul Stevens, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., William H. Rehnquist, and Sandra Day O'Connor
The Cleburne Living Center wanted to operate a group home for thirteen “mentally retarded” people. The city of Cleburne, Texas, told the Center that it needed a special use permit to operate such a facility. Following a public hearing, the City Council voted to deny the permit. The Center filed suit, and argued that the denial violated the Equal Protection Clause. Specifically, the Center contended that if the residents were not mentally retarded, the permit would have been granted.
All nine Justices agreed that the city violated the Constitution. However, they did not agree on a single rationale. Justice White wrote the majority opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Burger and Justices Powell, Rehnquist, Stevens, and O’Connor.