Despite important strides toward equal treatment under the law over the past century, much work remains to be done to ensure racial equity and justice for Black Americans. As we wrap up Black History Month, Relman Colfax honors African American resilience, resistance and joy amid ongoing oppression and discrimination, and reflects on two of our seminal racial justice cases:
Challenging Predatory Lending at For-Profit Universities
In Carroll et al. v. Walden University, LLC et al., we challenged the “reverse redlining” practice of a for-profit university that intentionally targets Black and female students for online degree programs by falsely representing them to be cost-and time-effective. In fact, our complaint alleges that Walden University’s programs constitute expensive predatory schemes that violate civil rights and fair lending laws. We further allege that Walden deliberately hid the true cost of its Doctor of Business Administration (“DBA”) Program, and targeted Black and female students to the DBA program with the false promise of a swift graduate degree. This practice has the purpose and effect of contributing to and exacerbating the stark racial and gender disparities in student debt loads nationwide.
Through this case, the firm continues its work fighting against predatory lending practices in the for-profit education space.
Securing Affordable Housing for Black Residents After Hurricane Katrina
In 2009, the firm prevailed in multi-year litigation against St. Bernard Parish (Louisiana), which had blocked development of several hundred units of new affordable housing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. St. Bernard Parish, located southeast of the city of New Orleans and adjacent to majority African American neighborhoods, was over 93% white at the time of the lawsuit. The Court found that the Parish violated the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws by passing a September 2008 moratorium in on the construction of multi-family housing. The Court previously struck down several restrictive ordinances passed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, including a nearly identical multi-family moratorium in 2005, and a 2006 "blood relative" ordinance that restricted the rental of single-family residences to those related by blood to the owner of the property.
The Court found that St. Bernard Parish acted with racially discriminatory intent and that its actions had a discriminatory effect on African Americans.
We will continue to fight for racial justice.