Dec 2, 2014

The District Court for the District of Columbia has Ruled on HUD’s Disparate Impact Regulation



The HUD regulation dealing with the theory of discrimination under “disparate impact” was reviewed and ruled on by Judge Richard J. Leon, for the District of Columbia. He ruled that the administration cannot rely on "disparate impact" to judge discrimination. This is another attack on the theory and civil rights groups that use the theory to sue parties when there is no overt intentional discrimination.
Judge Leon went on to criticize the administration , Judge Leon said the administration's bid to establish disparate impact as a legitimate measure of discrimination showed "hutzpah (bordering on desperation)." "This is yet another example of an administrative agency trying desperately to write into law that which Congress never intended to sanction," Judge Leon wrote in a scorching opinion that described Obama administration attorneys' arguments as "nothing less than an artful misinterpretation" of the law.
HUD’s position in passing the regulation is that Congress authorized disparate impact analysis in the Fair Housing Act.

Aug 25, 2014

HUD charges Kent State University with housing discrimination over denial of a student's right to keep a therapy dog in university housing


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) charged Kent State University (KSU) and four employees with violating the Fair Housing Act after they denied a student's request to keep a therapy dog in a university apartment for emotional support.
The student suffers from "panic disorder and anxiety" and needs the support animal to function in school.
In a press release, the HUD Assistant Secretary said that "Many people with disabilities rely on therapy animals to enhance their quality of life". "The Fair Housing Act protects their right to a service animal and HUD is committed to taking action whenever the nation's fair housing laws are violated," Velazquez said.
In contrast, the university released the following statement Tuesday afternoon: "Kent State University is aware of the charges stemming from claims made several years ago.  Helping our students succeed remains a top priority, and we look forward to discussing the facts of this case at the appropriate time."
A letter from the psychologist, quoted by HUD, stated that the student had benefited greatly in the past from having a pet, and requested that the university "take into consideration her [the student's] mental health disorder when considering her request."

The student seeks $16,000 in civil damages from the university and each person named in the charges. The agency said that the charge will be refer to a federal administrative law judge for hearing or if any of the parties choose to have the case heard in federal district court, the case will be heard be a federal judge.

Apr 4, 2014

Louisiana Lawmakers reject Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification bill:

Lawmakers rejected a bill that would have prohibited housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The House Commerce Committee voted 13-5 today against the measure, which was the first in a package of gay rights bills proposed for consideration this session. The proposed bill would have amended the Louisiana Equal Housing Opportunity Act 
by adding sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and marital status as Protected classes: 
http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/ea72346462734ca7b6f7959765dd35e7/LA--Gay-Rights-Housing/

Feb 7, 2014

Race and Familial status case filed in Southern Illinois by the DOJ:

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the owners and management of a large mobile home park in Effingham, Illinois for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act for discriminating against African-Americans and families with children.
The lawsuit, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The complaint alleges that some of the employees with management engaged in a pattern or practice of violating the FHA by imposing requirements on African-Americans interested in living at mobile home park that they did not impose on white prospective tenants. The suit also alleges that management refused to register an African-American boyfriend of a white resident.
Also, the lawsuit alleges that the defendants refused to permit families with children to live in one of the four rows at the mobile home park. “The lawsuit arose after the residents who were subjected to the discriminatory conduct contacted HOPE Fair Housing Center, an organization in Illinois that advocates for equal opportunity in housing, who in turn contacted the Justice Department.  Some of the evidence leading to the filing of today’s lawsuit came from statements made by Four Seasons officials to testers, individuals who pose as renters to gather information about possible discriminatory practices.  The testing evidence in this case was developed by the department’s Fair Housing Testing Program.”

Nov 22, 2013

Disparate Impact saved again….


Back in October, we reported on a crucial housing case that had the potential of reversing the long standing disparate impact theory in housing discrimination law.  Housing advocates nationwide closely followed the case of the Township of Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. The fundamental issue was whether disparate impact claims can be brought under the Fair Housing Act.

The disparate impact standard has helped in the fight against housing discrimination, by enabling plaintiffs prove discrimination by focusing on the disparate impact of discriminatory housing policies and practices.  As our October report indicated, all U.S Appellate Courts have ruled on this issue and have held that the Fair Housing Act allows claims under a “disparate impact” theory. The case was scheduled to be heard before the US Supreme Court on December 4, 2013. However, lawyers from both sides reached a settlement agreement last week and would file a joint agreement to dismiss the petition filed with the Supreme Court and a joint stipulation of dismissal with the federal district court to end the litigation.

The parties in the case were the City of Mount Holly and property owners in the Mount Holly Gardens neighborhood, who claimed that the City’s aggressive redevelopment program had displaced hundreds of predominantly African American and Hispanic residents.  A Supreme Court ruling that disparate impact claims are not available under the FHA because of a lack of textual support would have carried serious implications for housing discrimination claims. This is the second time in recent years that the issue of disparate impact has fallen short of oral argument before the US Supreme Court. Currently, the disparate impact standard is still saved in cases under the Fair Housing Act.


Nov 12, 2013

Illinois the 15th State to Legalize Same-Sex Marriages


Illinois will become the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage as the House and Senate passed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2013/11/05/illinois-house-passes-same-sex-marriage-bill/. Governor Quinn promised to immediately sign the bill when presented to him.