Maurice Alexander’s life is about helping other people. Nearly 70 years old, he is a certified paralegal, nursing assistant, and home health aide. He stands up for what’s right. For over 15 years, Mr. Alexander has worked as an advocate for changes in the criminal justice system. He goes to extraordinary lengths for his family, especially his young son. Mr. Alexander even used his home health aide certificate to care for elderly family members. But, like all of us, to do his job and care for his family Mr. Alexander needs a home. Yet, after three separate subsidized properties wrongly rejected his housing application, he found himself homeless. In contravention of federal law, the DC Human Rights Act, and the properties’ own tenant selection policies, he was denied housing because of either a 7-year-old, non-violent, non-drug related misdemeanor conviction or a later-overturned 1991 conviction.
Mr. Alexander knows that his story is just one example of the unfair collateral consequences of arrests and convictions that have a disparate impact on so many African Americans in the Washington, D.C. metro area community. That is why, even after he found an apartment, he decided to sue based on the discrimination he faced due to his criminal history. He is driven by an interest in ensuring that others will not suffer similarly.
Mr. Alexander’s “homelessness serves as a tangible example of the devastating impact that unlawful housing policies and practices can have on members of our community. We are working to ensure that the Defendants’ unlawful practices end,” says Maia Cave, an Orrick associate leading the litigation on behalf of Mr. Alexander, along with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.
Mr. Alexander’s case is moving forward. A DC federal district court recently denied defendants’ motion to dismiss Mr. Alexander’s complaint. In doing so, the court acknowledged the viability of disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act relating to criminal history policies, relying on explicit guidance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
If you are interested in the unfair collateral consequences of arrests and conviction in housing, please contact Catherine Cone.