The FirmRelman, Dane & Colfax is a civil rights law firm based in Washington, D.C., with additional offices in Ohio and New Mexico. We litigate civil rights cases in the areas of housing, lending, employment, public accommodations, education, and police accountability. Our national practice includes individual and class action lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs who have suffered discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, national origin, color, religion, sex, disability, age, familial status, source of income, and sexual orientation.
The firm also provides legal counsel to progressive companies that demonstrate a commitment to best practices in the way they conduct business. Such counsel includes representation of financial institutions in reporting to their regulators on fair lending and fair servicing issues. We conduct investigations and provide counseling regarding consumer protection, privacy, lending, employment, whistleblower, and federal regulatory matters. Our practice also includes analysis and strategy regarding public policy issues and proposed legislation affecting civil rights.
Cases in the News
Settlement Eliminates Discriminatory Local Residence Requirements
Relman, Dane & Colfax is pleased to announce that its clients—Crystal Carter and Connecticut Fair Housing Center (CFHC)—have settled their housing discrimination case against the Winchester (Connecticut) Housing Authority (WHA). WHA has traditionally served 17 towns in northwestern Connecticut, a part of the state that is overwhelmingly White. This landmark settlement does away entirely with local residence requirements and preferences that discriminate on the basis of race and national origin. The Consent Decree, entered November 14, 2013, by the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, provides for comprehensive relief for Ms. Carter and for CFHC, and requires WHA to pay $350,000 in damages, attorney’s fees and costs. To read more and review the Complaint and Consent Order click here.
Relman, Dane & Colfax Files Amicus Brief In Support of Local Effort to Use Eminent Domain to Prevent Foreclosures
One of the most hotly debated housing policy issues in the country is Richmond, California’s proposed use of eminent domain to stem the continuing tide of foreclosures. Earlier this week Relman, Dane & Colfax filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging the mortgage securitization industry’s threat to redline Richmond and any other city that uses eminent domain for this purpose. To read more and review the Memorandum of Amici Curiae click here.
Court Approves $5 Million Settlement of Nation's First Reverse Redlining Case Against a For-Profit College
On July 25, 2013, U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney, Jr. granted final approval to a $5 million class action settlement in a lawsuit against a company that owns and operates a for-profit vocational college in the Richmond, Virginia area. The school was known as Richmond School of Health and Technology (“RSHT”) until recently changing its name to Chester Career College. Relman, Dane & Colfax filed the lawsuit in 2011 and believes it is the first reverse redlining case ever filed against a for-profit college in the country. The lawsuit alleged violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, and asserted state common law claims. To read more about the case click here.
Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against D.C. Housing Authority for Illegally Denying Sign Language Interpreters and Basic Services to People with Disabilities
On May 7, 2013, Relman, Dane & Colfax, along with the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the D.C. Housing Authority’s failure to provide sign language interpreters and equal access to Housing Authority programs and services to people with hearing impairments. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jacqueline Young and Latheda Wilson, both of whom rely on American Sign Language to communicate, and Deaf-REACH, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that people with hearing loss are equal participants in society. The complaint details how the Housing Authority has repeatedly denied interpreters to individuals with hearing impairments like Ms. Young and Ms. Wilson, forcing them to rely on notes, attempts at lip-reading, and gestures, without any effective means of communication. To read more and review the Complaint click here.
City Found Liable Under the ADA and the FHA For Failing to Accommodate Homeowner
On May 14, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio granted summary judgment to Bernita and Winston Vance on their claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act against the City of Maumee, Ohio. The Vances filed suit after the City refused to allow them to use a public right-of-way to access the rear of their home so that Mrs. Vance could avoid walking up 18 steps from the public street in the front of her home. The right-of-way in the rear had not been maintained by the City in several years, and neighbours had objected to the Vances use of it, so the City denied their request to use it and erected a temporary wooden barrier at its entrance, with threat of prosecution, so that Mr. Vance could not drive Mrs. Vance to her back door. To review the Complaint and the Court’s Order, click here.
Refusal to Grant Reasonable Modification Costs New Mexico Landlord $200,000
On March 27, 2013, U.S. District Court Chief Judge M. Christina Armijo entered a Consent Order directing Michael Croom, an Albuquerque, New Mexico landlord, to pay $200,000 to Dereck Scott, a tenant who had sought reasonable modifications to make his home accessible. After developing multiple sclerosis in January 2011, Mr. Scott’s ability to walk quickly declined and within months he was forced to use a wheelchair. The single-family home he and his family were renting from Mr. Croom was inaccessible in many ways, including having narrow bathroom doorways that Dereck could not enter with his wheelchair. To use the toilet, Mr. Scott had to have his wife lift him from the chair into the bathroom. When his wife was not home, Mr. Scott had to use a small portable toilet he set up outside the door to the bathroom. In October 2011, the family sent a letter to Mr. Croom, requesting permission to make various modifications that had been recommended by an occupational therapist. To read more and review the Complaint and Consent Order click here.
Class Certified in Firm’s Long-Running Race Discrimination Case against Secret Service
On February 25, 2013, U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts certified a class of 120 current and former African-American Secret Service Agents, ruling that their claims of pattern or practice disparate treatment and disparate impact in promotions to supervisory levels may proceed as a class action. In its opinion, the Court not only rejected all of Defendant’s arguments against class certification, but also rejected Defendant’s challenge to Plaintiffs’ statistical evidence of discrimination, instead holding that Plaintiffs’ expert offered “relevant” and “reliable” evidence of discrimination that was corroborated by the sworn testimony of over 60 current and former African-American Agents. The Court’s rulings mark the latest victories in the Firm’s long-running Moore, et al. v. Napolitano litigation that began in 2000, and has included several sanctions against Defendants for discovery misconduct.
Federal Court Permits Design and Construction Claims Against Architect to Proceed on Continuing Violation Theory
On January 29, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia denied an architect's summary judgment motion on statute of limitations grounds, holding that the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) may proceed with claims that the architect is liable for violations of the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act at apartment buildings in North Carolina and South Carolina, even though the architect's work on one project ended more than two years before suit was filed. Read more.
Baltimore Settles Landmark Fair Lending Case Against Wells Fargo
On July 12, 2012, the City of Baltimore resolved its landmark fair lending lawsuit against Wells Fargo, filed on the City's behalf by Relman, Dane & Colfax over four years ago. Resolution of the suit was announced concurrently with an announcement by the United States Department of Justice that it has reached a national fair lending settlement with Wells Fargo worth at least $175 million. To read more about the case, click here.