304 F.Supp. 1305 (D.Md. 1969), Civ. 20698, United States v. Mintzes

Docket Nº:Civ. 20698
Citation:304 F.Supp. 1305
Party Name:United States v. Mintzes
Case Date:October 13, 1969
Court:United States District Courts, 4th Circuit, District of Maryland
 
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Page 1305

304 F.Supp. 1305 (D.Md. 1969)

UNITED STATES of America

v.

Elaine MINTZES and Alvin S. Mintzes, d/b/a Castle Realty Company

Civ. No. 20698.

United States District Court, D. Maryland.

Oct. 13, 1969

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Barnet D. Skolnik, Asst. U.S. Atty., Baltimore, Md., Alexander C. Ross and Joanne E. Clifford, Attys., Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for plaintiff.

Norman P. Ramsey, Baltimore, Md., for defendants.

THOMSEN, Chief Judge.

This is said to be the first action brought by the Attorney General under 42 U.S.C.A. § 3613, to enforce the provisions

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of subsection (e) of § 3604, 1 which provides:

'§ 3604. Discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.

'As made applicable by section 3603 of this title and except as exempted by sections 3603(b) and 3607 of this title, it shall be unlawful--

'(e) For profit, to induce or attempt to induce any person to sell or rent any dwelling by representations regarding the entry or prospective entry into the neighborhood of a person or persons of a particular race, color, religion, or national origin.'

Under § 3613 the Attorney General may bring a civil action for an injunction and other appropriate relief whenever he has reasonable cause to believe either 'that any person or group of persons is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of any of the rights granted by this subchapter', or 'that any group of persons has been denied any of the rights granted by this subchapter and such denial raises an issue of general public importance.'

The Attorney General is proceeding in this case under the first alternative. His complaint alleges that 'the defendants, since January 1, 1969, have for profit induced and attempted to induce the owners of certain dwellings, presently occupied by white persons, on Woodbourne Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, to sell those dwellings by representations regarding the entry and prospective entry of Negroes into the neighborhood'. He further alleges that this conduct of defendants is in violation of 42 U.S.C.A. § 3604(e), and constitutes 'a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights secured by Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.' 2

Defendants challenge the credibility of plaintiff's witnesses, and (1) object to the admissibility of the testimony of three witnesses, on the ground that the properties which they owned were either exempted from the operation of § 3604(e) by § 3603(b)(1), or were not within the coverage of the Act, and that any representations made to them are irrelevant and immaterial in this case; (2) contend that a specific intent to violate the statute must be proved; (3) deny that the alleged representations were made 'for profit'; (4) challenge the constitutionality of § 3604(e) as written and as sought to be applied in this case; (5) deny that the evidence shows the requisite 'pattern or practice'; and (6) argue that the evidence does not justify the relief requested.

Coverage

Since the issue of coverage also involves the admissibility of some of the testimony, it should be considered before the findings of fact are made.

Plaintiff offered testimony to prove representations made to Mr. and Mrs. Slater, the owners of a two-family dwelling, and to Mrs. Abel, also the owner of a two-family dwelling, and to Mrs. Abel's son and daughter, who were present when Mrs. Mintzes visited Mrs. Abel. Any prohibited representations made to induce the sale of two-family

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dwellings are admittedly covered by the Act.

Plaintiff also offered testimony to prove representations made to Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, the owners of a single-family dwelling across the street from the other properties. The Lincolns were not offering their property for sale or rent. Defendants contends that the Lincolns' property was exempted from the operation of § 3604(e) by § 3603(b) (1); that the Lincolns therefore do not enjoy with respect to that property the rights arising out of § 3604(e); and that representations which would otherwise be prohibited by § 3604(e), made to induce them to sell that property, do not violate that subsection.

Section 3603(a) provides that after December 31, 1968, § 3604 applies to all dwellings not exempted by subsection (b) of that section. Section 3603(b) provides: 'Nothing in section 3604 of this title (other than subsection (c) shall apply to-- (1) any single-family house sold or rented by an owner' unless after December 31, 1969, he attempts to sell through a broker or by advertising, subject to other provisos not relevant in this case.

Section 3604 contains five prohibitions dealing respectively with (a) refusal to deal, (b) discrimination in terms, (c) discriminatory advertising, (d) false representations to any person that a dwelling is not available for sale or rental and (e) the representations, whether true or false, set out in the quotation at the beginning of this opinion. The first four prohibitions in § 3604 apply to actions by the owner of a dwelling who sells or rents it, and are intended to protect others against his actions; the last prohibition, in subsection (e), applies to representations made by others to the owner of a dwelling, and is intended to protect the owner and to prevent the panic selling which is inimical to the purpose of the Act. The question to be decided with respect to the admissibility of the testimony of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln is whether the provisions of subsection (e) apply to representations made to the owner of a single-family dwelling who does not wish to sell or rent it.

An owner who does not sell or rent or offer to sell or rent his house, whether it be a single-family dwelling or a multi-family dwelling, does not need an exemption from the prohibitions of § 3604(a)-(d). The exemption provided by § 3604(b)(1) was intended to exempt from the provisions of § 3604 certain owners of single-family dwellings who would be subject to the prohibitions contained in § 3604(a)-(d) were it not for the exemption provided by § 3603(b) (1). Since the owner of a single-family dwelling who does not sell or rent or offer to sell or rent his house is not within the scope or purpose of the exemption created by § 3603(b)(1), that exemption should not be construed to apply to such owners. Although the statute might be clearer, the Court concludes that the draftsman of the Act accomplished this result by making the exemption of § 3603(b)(1) apply to 'any single-family house sold or rented by the owner', rather than to 'any single family house'.

This construction is in accord with the general purpose of the Act. Any other construction would weaken the thrust of the Act by perpetuating the right of blockbusters to prey on the fears of the owners of single-family houses which are not sold or rented or offered for sale or rent.

The testimony of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln with...

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