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10.01.2019

On September 30, 2019, U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden issued a decision denying summary judgment and permitting disability rights claims to proceed to trial against the Town of Cromwell, Connecticut and several of its officials, for their campaign to run a group home for people with disabilities out of town.

Relman Dane & Colfax represents Gilead Community Services, a non-profit housing provider, and the Connecticut Fair Housing Center (CFHC), in a lawsuit filed in April, 2017. In 2015, Gilead purchased a single-family property in Cromwell that it intended to use as a group home for six men with disabilities. While such a home is permitted by-right, under state law, in any residential neighborhood, Defendants responded to community opposition by using the full weight of their authority to force Gilead to close down the home. Gilead and CFHC allege that the Town’s illegal and concerted campaign—which included amplifying and stoking community opposition, pursuing a petition to deny Gilead a license, issuing an unfounded cease and desist order and denying Gilead’s tax-exempt status—violates the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

In denying Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on all counts, Judge Bolden held that there was substantial evidence to support a finding that the Town’s conduct violated the federal civil rights statutes by making housing unavailable, interfering with Gilead’s right to operate the home, retaliating against Gilead for asserting its fair housing rights, and stating the Town’s preference that people with mental illnesses not live in Cromwell. Judge Bolden also rejected Defendants’ qualified immunity argument, citing to the Supreme Court’s 1985 decision in City of Cleburne, and finding well-established the proposition that “it is a violation of equal protection for government officials to take action against people with disabilities based on prejudice that the citizenry may harbor against them.”

The firm's litigation team is led by Tara Ramchandani, Yiyang Wu, and Andrea Lowe, along with co-counsel Greg Kirschner of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.

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