Relman Colfax has filed an amicus brief on behalf of fifty fair housing organizations and three fair housing testers (together “Amici”) in support of Plaintiff-Respondent Deborah Laufer in Acheson Hotels, LLC v. Laufer, a case examining whether testers have standing to pursue claims under a specific provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) known as the “Reservation Rule.”
Ms. Laufer is a person with a disability who tests hotels’ compliance with disability rights laws, including the Reservation Rule’s disclosure requirements. She sued after determining that Acheson Hotels’ online reservation system failed to disclose the accessibility of its facilities, thereby preventing people with disabilities from assessing whether they could stay at the hotel. The district court dismissed the case for lack of standing, holding that because Ms. Laufer visited the hotel’s website as a tester, not as a potential visitor, she had not sufficiently alleged an Article III injury. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed, finding that under Supreme Court precedent testers have standing when they experience discrimination, including the discriminatory denial of information. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and will now hear the case on the merits. Oral argument is set for October 4, 2023.
Testers are essential to full enforcement of civil rights laws because they are uniquely able to detect both covert discrimination and when discriminatory conduct is part of a broader pattern or practice. Fair housing organizations routinely work with testers to audit compliance and, when appropriate, investigate potential discrimination. Amici filed this brief in support of Plaintiff-Respondent to ensure the Supreme Court considered the fair housing perspective in its decision of this important case.
Because the Supreme Court first recognized tester injuries in a fair housing case, Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, Amici were well positioned to explain why the harm recognized in Havens remains actionable today and is consistent with more recent standing precedent. Amici also drew upon their depth of experience to provide the Court with examples of when trial judges and juries—who hear tester evidence firsthand—have awarded damages to testers. Finally, Amici rebutted an argument from the Petitioner that permitting tester claims would encroach upon the Executive Branch’s enforcement authority. As Amici explained in their brief, there can be no such encroachment when the Executive Branch itself relies on testers for fair housing enforcement and considers them to be “aggrieved parties” within the meaning of antidiscrimination law.
The Amicus brief can be found here.
The Relman Colfax case team is led by Reed Colfax, Lila Miller, and Gemma Donofrio, with paralegal assistance from Kelis Johnson and Jazmin Trenco.
Diane Houk and Sara Luz Estela of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, and Daniel Woofter of Goldstein, Russell & Woofter, LLC served as co-counsel on the brief.