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.
In the News
Relman, Dane & Colfax and Department of Justice Settle Housing Discrimination Claims for $850,000
Plaintiffs in a major housing discrimination case against an Akron-Canton, Ohio area landlord have settled their claims for $850,000 and extensive injunctive relief. The Plaintiffs had filed the case under the federal and Ohio fair housing laws alleging that John Ruth, who owns and operates more than one hundred apartments in the Northeast, Ohio area, regularly discriminated against both African Americans and families with children. To read more and review the Proposed Consent Order click here.
Court of Appeals Upholds Class Certification in Race Discrimination Case Against Secret Service
On August 1, 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held unanimously that race discrimination claims against the U.S. Secret Service may proceed as a class action. Judge Douglas Ginsburg, writing for the appeals court, rejected various attempts by the Secret Service to challenge the District Court’s 2013 opinion granting class certification. Click here to read more.
Relman, Dane & Colfax Wins First Appellate Decision Holding that Intent not Required to Prove FHA Reasonable Accommodation and Reasonable Modification Claims
In the first appellate decision squarely addressing the issue, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has held that evidence of intent or pretext is not required to establish reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification claims under the Fair Housing Act. To read more about the case and the Opinion and Judgment click here.
Advocacy Groups Settle Civil Rights Complaint Against State of New Jersey Involving Superstorm Sandy
Relman, Dane & Colfax is pleased to announce the resolution of an administrative complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which alleged that the State of New Jersey violated civil rights laws in the administration of its Superstorm Sandy recovery program. The Firm represented Latino Action Network, Fair Share Housing Center (FHSC) and NJ NAACP, and co-counseled the matter with FSHC. To read more about the case and the Settlement click here.
Relman, Dane & Colfax Files Redlining Lawsuit Against Santander
Bank on Behalf of Providence, Rhode Island
On May 29, 2014, Relman, Dane & Colfax filed a groundbreaking redlining lawsuit in United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island on behalf of the City of Providence against Santander Bank, N.A. Providence alleges that since 2009 Santander has deliberately discriminated by refusing to make prime mortgage loans available in minority neighborhoods as required under the Fair Housing Act. Santander gained a substantial share of the city’s mortgage lending market in 2009 when it completed its purchase of Sovereign Bank. To read the Complaint and Press Release click here.
Relman, Dane & Colfax Submits Comments on Proposed Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules is poised to decide whether to recommend a set of proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that would reduce critical discovery tools like depositions and interrogatories, constrict the scope of discoverable evidence by inserting a proportionality balancing test unfairly weighted against low damages claims, and restrict a court’s ability to impose sanctions and remedies when a party destroys evidence it was under an obligation to preserve. These measures will unquestionably make it more difficult to prove civil rights violations. To read more click here.
Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review Article Analyzes HUD’s Disparate Impact Rule
Relman, Dane & Colfax is pleased to announce the publication of a new article examining HUD’s February 2013 final rule interpreting the disparate impact standard under the Fair Housing Act. Authored by Michael Allen, Jamie Crook and John Relman and titled “Assessing HUD’s Disparate Impact Rule: A Practitioner’s Perspective,” the article appears in the Winter 2014 issue of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, available at http://harvardcrcl.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/HLC104.pdf.
Banking Law Journal Discusses the Exposure of Securitization Trustees Under the Fair Housing Act for Poorly Maintained REO Properties
Relman, Dane & Colfax is pleased to announce the publication of an article examining an emerging issue in the enforcement of fair housing claims against lenders for racially discriminatory maintenance of their REO properties. Specifically, the article refutes the oft-heard suggestion that lenders who hold title to REO properties as “trustees” for securitization trusts cannot be held responsible for fair housing claims. Authored by Stephen Dane and titled “The Exposure of Securitization Trustees to Liability Under the Fair Housing Act for Poorly Maintained Real Estate Owned Properties,” the article appears in the February 2014 issue of the Banking Law Journal, and is available by clicking here.
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.
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.
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.
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.