This Fair Housing Act lawsuit was filed on April 18, 2017 against the City of LaGrange, Georgia, on behalf of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Troup County NAACP, Project South, and seven individual plaintiffs. The lawsuit challenges the City's utility service policies as having an unlawful disparate impact on African Americans and Latinos.

In LaGrange, residents receive electricity, gas, and water services from the City. Under City policy, if a resident owes any court debt, including court judgments or fines, LaGrange will not provide utility services to that resident. This policy of conditioning utilities on the payment of unrelated court debt has an unjustified disparate impact on African Americans, who are overrepresented among those owing court debt. 

LaGrange also requires a Social Security number in order to receive utility services. Immigrants who live in LaGrange who are ineligible for Social Security numbers—a group that includes undocumented immigrants as well as many categories of lawfully present non-citizens—cannot receive utility services. This significantly impedes their housing choices, prevents them from owning homes, and perpetuates segregation of Latinos by forcing many Latinos to live in the limited housing where landlords are willing to hold utility accounts for tenants. This policy has an unjustified disparate impact on Latinos, who make up a large majority of foreign-born non-citizens and people who are ineligible for Social Security numbers in LaGrange.

On December 8, 2017, the district court dismissed the case, holding that Section 3604(b) of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the provision of housing-related services and facilities, does not apply to conduct occurring after a person has acquired housing. In an important victory, the Eleventh Circuit reversed that decision on October 10, 2019. In its decision, the appeals court held that existing residents may pursue claims under Section 3604(b), including to challenge discrimination in the provision of the basic utility services at issue in this case. The Eleventh Circuit remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

Following remand, the parties engaged in settlement negotiations, and reached a settlement in late October 2020.  That agreement provides for repeal of the offending policies, public notice to City residents, and the payment of $450,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

Relman Colfax co-counseled this matter with the National Immigration Law Center and the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Case Caption

Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. City of LaGrange, No. 3:17-cv-67 (N.D. Ga.); No. 18-10053 (11th Cir.)

Published Decisions

940 F.3d 627 (11th Cir. 2019) 

Practice Areas

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