Federal Lawsuit Filed for Victim of Housing Discrimination and Collateral Consequences of Misdemeanor Conviction

WASHINGTON, DC – Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP has joined with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (“the Committee”) to file suit in federal court on behalf of Maurice Alexander, a DC resident qualified to rent publicly-assisted housing, who was improperly denied such housing at three rental properties last year — Edgewood Seniors: The View, The Overlook at Oxon Run, and Capitol Gateway Senior. As owners, managers, and operators of the three properties, defendants Edgewood Management Corporation, Community Preservation and Development Corporation, A&R Management, Inc., and East Capitol Senior Rental LP (“Defendants”) violated Mr. Alexander’s right to fair housing by rejecting his application to each of the properties because of a minor misdemeanor conviction seven years ago, in violation of federal law and even their own policies. These rejections caused substantial injury to Mr. Alexander as explained in the complaint, including months of homelessness.

Defendants violated Mr. Alexander’s rights under the federal Fair Housing Act and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act. As described in the complaint, the Defendants’ broad use of even minor and dated criminal convictions to exclude housing applicants has an unjustified disparate and discriminatory impact on Mr. Alexander and other qualified African-American applicants for assisted housing because in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, a disproportionate number of persons who have criminal convictions are African-American. In addition, while federal housing law authorizes assisted housing providers to exclude applicants who “engaged in any drug-related or violent criminal activity or other activity which would adversely affect the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises” during a “reasonable” period of time preceding an application for assisted housing, the law does not allow assisted housing providers to exclude applicants, like Mr. Alexander, because of a non-violent, non-drug related, dated offense. By acting contrary to federal housing law, the complaint further contends, Defendants violated their contractual commitments to the D.C. Housing Authority, for which they are liable to Mr. Alexander as a third-party beneficiary.

Last October, the Committee and Covington & Burling LLP released a comprehensive report, The Collateral Consequences of Arrests and Convictions under D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Law, which explained the serious problems faced by returning citizens with past criminal convictions concerning employment, housing, and other areas. The report included descriptions of the significant difficulties encountered by five individuals in the D.C. area, including Mr. Alexander, in obtaining housing or employment because of past convictions.

The Alexander complaint can be read here. The Committee report on collateral consequences of arrests and convictions may be downloaded here.

Media Highlights:

Washington City Paper (November 13, 2015)


Elliot Mincberg, Senior Counsel, DC Prisoners’ Project
Washington Lawyers’ Committee,
elliot_mincberg@washlaw.org; 202-319-1000

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs was established in 1968 to provide pro bono legal services to address issues of discrimination and entrenched poverty. Since then, it has successfully handled thousands of civil rights cases on behalf of individuals and groups in the areas of fair housing, equal employment opportunity, public accommodations, immigrant rights, disability rights, public education, and prisoners’ rights.

ABOUT ORRICK, HERRINGTON & SUTCLIFFE LLP: Orrick’s pro bono program has been praised for the dedication of its lawyers to supporting diverse causes with tangible results—including high-profile immigration disputes, civil rights litigation and grassroots global development through an innovative impact finance initiative. Orrick strategically allocates its pro bono resources to ensure that each lawyer’s work has the maximum impact for the client and the community. In recognition of this strategy, Orrick was named one of the pro bono law firms of the year by Who’s Who Legal, named one of Law360’s Pro Bono Firms of 2014, placed 9th nationwide in The American Lawyer’s 2015 Pro Bono Survey, recognized on the National Law Journal’s Pro Bono Hot List, and recognized by the New York Law Journal for our pro bono contributions.

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