300 F.Supp. 210 (N.D.Ill. 1969), 69 C 15, Contract Buyers League v. F & F Inv.

Docket Nº:69 C 15.
Citation:300 F.Supp. 210
Party Name:CONTRACT BUYERS LEAGUE, an unincorporated voluntary association, et al., Plaintiffs, v. F & F INVESTMENT et al., Defendants.
Case Date:May 21, 1969
Court:United States District Courts, 7th Circuit, Northern District of Illinois
 
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Page 210

300 F.Supp. 210 (N.D.Ill. 1969)

CONTRACT BUYERS LEAGUE, an unincorporated voluntary association, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

F & F INVESTMENT et al., Defendants.

No. 69 C 15.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division.

May 21, 1969

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William R. Ming, Jr., McCoy, Ming & Black, Albert E. Jenner, Jr., Thomas P. Sullivan, Nenner & Block, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiffs.

Robert S. Cushman, Spray, Price, Hough & Cushman, Irving L. Block, Block & Erdos, Chicago, Ill., for defendants.

OPINION

WILL, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, suing as a class, seek relief with respect to contracts for the sale of used residential property in the City of Chicago. Their complaint contains five counts. The first alleges violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985(3), and of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States. Counts two and three allege, respectively, violations of the federal antitrust laws and of the antitrust laws of the State of Illinois. Count four of the complaint alleges violation of the federal securities laws. Count five alleges violation of the Illinois common law regarding fraud, usury and unconscionable contracts.

This Court has previously determined that under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiffs can maintain this action as a class action; and the Court has defined the plaintiff class, subject to future revision and refinement, to be composed of negroes who, since January 1, 1952, have entered into installment contracts for the purchase of used residential real estate in the City of Chicago. 1 The determination that a class action is appropriate was based on the recognition that the common questions

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of law and fact 'predominate' over the individual questions. The essence of this complaint is that violations of law resulted from defendants' concerted exploitation of a condition of de facto racial segregation existing in the City of Chicago. Thus, the Court found that common questions of law and fact 'predominate' within the terms of Rule 23 because it is alleged that the illegal advantage secured under any one contract depended on, was complemented by, and resulted from a concert and pattern of discriminatory activity including other similar contracts.

The Motions to Dismiss

By way of motions to dismiss each and every count of the complaint, defendants have now challenged the sufficiency of the allegations.

Before proceeding with the required determination, it should be noted at the outset that when considering a motion to dismiss, a district court must consider all the allegations of fact contained in the complaint and it is uniformly recognized that when a court is making this determination, the complaint must be liberally construed. 2

Count I-- The Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments

The First count of the complaint relates essentially to the allegations, here taken as admitted for purposes of the motions to dismiss, that defendants exploited a system of de facto racial segregation that existed in the City of Chicago, and that by taking advantage of the scarcity of housing for negroes in the City of Chicago, defendants have secured unlawful advantage in the contracts executed by plaintiffs. As described in the complaint, the scheme of exploitation often included obtaining purchase money mortgages based on false and excessive appraisals of used residential property. The essence of the scheme is alleged to have been the purchase of residential properties from white homeowners and the resale, often in the nature of quick 'turn-around' transactions, at greatly inflated prices to negro purchasers, who were disadvantaged by the system of de facto segregation and the resulting shortage of housing for negroes in Chicago. The terms of the contracts, especially the price, are alleged to represent unlawful profit gained through this pattern of exploitation.

The complaint also alleges in Count I a separate aspect of discriminatory activity. It alleges that some defendants amplified and fostered the de facto segregation on which the contracts depended. The complaint asserts that some of the defendants engaged in what is popularly known as 'blockbusting,' that some of the defendants stimulated and preyed on racial bigotry and fear by initiating and encouraging rumors that negroes were about to move into a given area, that all non-negroes would leave, and that the market values of properties would descend to 'panic prices' with residence in the area becoming undesirable and unsafe for non-negroes. The complaint thus charges not only that defendants exploited the existing condition of de facto segregation, but that by prompting and encouraging a stampede of white sellers, some defendants extended and developed the underlying inequity

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of segregation that was the breeding ground for their discriminatory profit.

Section 1982 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 provides that:

All citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.

In Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, 88 S.Ct. 2186, 20 L.Ed.2d 1189 (1968), the Supreme Court of the United States declared the constitutionality and determined the scope of Section 1982. Beginning its opinion with the sum and substance of its determination, the Court stated,

We hold that 1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in the sale or rental of property, and that the statute, thus construed, is a valid exercise of the power of Congress to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment. Id. at 413, 88 S.Ct. at 2189.

The manner of discrimination specifically involved in Jones was the refusal to sell a home to an individual solely on the ground of the individual's race. In the instant case, the discrimination alleged is the sale of used residential property to negroes at higher prices and on more burdensome terms than similar property is sold to whites. Defendants contend that this difference in fact is a difference in kind under the law, that the Supreme Court's conclusion as to the import of Section 1982 is therefore not applicable to this case.

But the language and logic of Jones and the constitutional application that the Supreme Court regarded as the source of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 must be equally applicable to the discrimination alleged in this case. The Court found that the legislative history of the 1866 Act demonstrated the Congressional intent to ensure that the former slaves could participate fully in a national economy. It was the Court's conclusion that the existence of a black market distinct from a white market was the de facto vestige of what the Congress in 1866 intended to abolish as a critical means of making the black man a free man. The conviction recognized was that the obliteration of the social system where one man was the slave of another required as a fundamental matter that our economy be undifferentiated as to the race of a man. The Court thus understood Section 1982 as implementing the Thirteenth Amendment 'to assure that a dollar in the hands of a Negro will purchase the same thing as a dollar in the hands of a white man.' Id. at 443, 88 S.Ct. at 2205.

The Court did point out that 1982 was limited to activity directly covered by the express terms of the Section. The Court thus stated, 'at the outset, it is important to make clear precisely what this case does not involve,' and went on to say that 1982 'does not deal specifically with discrimination in the provision of services or facilities in connection with the sale or rental of a dwelling. * * * It does not refer explicitly to discrimination in financing arrangements or in the provision of brokerage services.' Id. at 413, 88 S.Ct. at 2189. Of course, the alleged blockbusting and discriminatory lending in the instant case do not fall within the express terms of 1982. However, the basic claim in this lawsuit clearly does. The basic activity is the purchase of of property. Blockbusting and discriminatory lending are alleged to be additional activities, part and parcel of the alleged conspiracy, which extended the scope and impact of the allegedly discriminatory sale and purchase.

Defendants in terrorem point to what they suppose to be the incredible consequences of a holding that Section 1982 bars the sale of residential property to negroes at a higher price because of their race. Defendants contend that this holding would mean that 'every nonwhite citizen has a cause of action maintainable in Federal Court to either rescind or reform each and every transaction

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involving a purchase or leasing of either real or personal property by the simple allegation that he was charged more than a white person would have been charged or that he received less favorable terms and conditions than would have been given to a white person.'

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, and considering that any such allegation would be subject, as any allegation, to the test of proof on trial, defendants are correct. Moreover, the converse is also true. Every white citizen may allege a cause of action on the ground that he was charged more or received less favorable terms than would have been given to a black person. The Supreme Court noted that the defendant in Jones similarly pointed to 'the revolutionary implications of so literal a reading of 1982.' Id. at 422, 88 S.Ct. at 2194. The Supreme Court responded by stating, 'our examination of the relevant history, however, persuades us that...

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