441 U.S. 91 (1979), 77-1493, Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood

Docket Nº:No. 77-1493
Citation:441 U.S. 91, 99 S.Ct. 1601, 60 L.Ed.2d 66
Party Name:Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood
Case Date:April 17, 1979
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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441 U.S. 91 (1979)

99 S.Ct. 1601, 60 L.Ed.2d 66

Gladstone, Realtors

v.

Village of Bellwood

No. 77-1493

United States Supreme Court

April 17, 1979

Argued November 29, 1978

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Section 812 of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (Act) provides that the rights granted by § 804 against racial discrimination in the sales or rental of housing "may be enforced by civil actions in appropriate United States district courts." Respondents (the village of Bellwood, one Negro and four white residents of Bellwood, and one Negro resident of a neighboring municipality) brought separate actions in District Court under § 812 against petitioners (two real estate brokerage firms and certain of their employees), alleging that they had violated § 804 by "steering" prospective Negro homeowners toward a specified 12- by 13-block integrated area ("target" area) of Bellwood and by steering white customers away from the "target" area. It was further alleged that Bellwood had been injured by having its housing market wrongfully manipulated to the economic and social detriment of its citizens, and that the individual respondents had been denied their right to select housing without regard to race, and had been deprived of the social and professional benefits of living in an integrated society. Monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief was sought. Prior to bringing suit, the individual respondents, purportedly, but not in fact, seeking to purchase homes, had acted as "testers" in an attempt to determine whether petitioners were engaged in racial steering. Four of the six individual respondents reside in the "target" area. The District Court granted summary judgment for the petitioners in both cases, holding that respondents, who had acted only as testers, and thus were, at most, indirect victims of the alleged violations, lacked standing to sue under § 812, which was limited to actions by "direct victims" of violations. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that, although the individual respondents lacked standing in their capacity as testers, they were entitled to prove that the discriminatory practices documented by their testing deprived them, as residents of the adversely affected area, of the social and professional benefits of living in an integrated society; that the requirements of Art. III had been satisfied as to both the individual respondents and respondent village; that § 810 of the Act -- which provides that a "person aggrieved" by a violation of the

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Act may seek conciliation from the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and, if conciliation fails, bring suit in district court -- and § 812 provide alternative remedies available to precisely the same class of plaintiffs; and that the conclusion in Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 409 U.S. 205, 209, that standing under § 810 extends "`as broadly as is permitted by Article III,'" is applicable to cases brought under § 812.

Held:

1. The Court of Appeals correctly interpreted §§ 810 and 812 as providing alternative remedies to precisely the same class of plaintiffs, with the result that standing under § 812, like that under § 810, is as broad as is permitted by Art. III. Trafficante, supra. This construction of the Act is consistent with both its language and its legislative history, and with the interpretation of HUD, the agency primarily assigned to implement and administer the Act. Pp. 100-109.

2. The facts alleged in the complaints and revealed by initial discovery are sufficient to provide standing to respondents under Art. III, except with respect to the two individual respondents who do not reside within the "target" area, and thus summary judgments for petitioners should not have been entered. Pp. 109-116.

(a) If, as alleged, petitioners' sales practices actually have begun to rob Bellwood of its racial balance and stability, the village has standing to challenge the legality of that conduct. Pp. 109-111.

(b) The allegation that the "target" area is losing its integrated character because of petitioners' conduct is sufficient to satisfy Art. III with respect to the individual respondents who reside in that area. The constitutional limits of these respondents' standing to protest the intentional segregation of their community do not vary simply because that community is defined in terms of city blocks rather than, as in Trafficante, supra, by reference to apartment buildings, but instead are determined by the presence or absence of a "distinct and palpable injury" to respondents. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501. Moreover, to the extent that the complaints allege economic injury to these respondents resulting from a diminution in the value of their homes due to petitioners' conduct, convincing evidence of such a decrease in value would be sufficient under Art. III to allow standing to contest the legality of that conduct. Pp. 111-115.

569 F.2d 1013, affirmed in part.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined.

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REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 116.

POWELL, J., lead opinion

[99 S.Ct. 1605] MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 82 Stat. 81, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., commonly known as the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (Act), broadly prohibits discrimination in housing throughout the Nation. This case presents both statutory and constitutional questions concerning standing to sue under Title VIII.

I

Petitioners in this case are two real estate brokerage firms, Gladstone, Realtors (Gladstone), and Robert A Hintze, Realtors (Hintze), and nine of their employees. Respondents are the village of Bellwood, a municipal corporation and suburb of Chicago, one Negro and four white residents of Bellwood, and one Negro resident of neighboring Maywood. During

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the fall of 1975, the individual respondents and other persons consulted petitioners, stating that they were interested in purchasing homes in the general suburban area of which Bellwood is a part. The individual respondents were not, in fact, seeking to purchase homes, but were acting as "testers" in an attempt to determine whether petitioners were engaging in racial "steering," i.e., directing prospective home buyers interested in equivalent properties to different areas according to their race.

In October, 1975, respondents commenced an action under § 812 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3612,1 against Gladstone and its employees in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that they had violated 804 of Title VIII, 42 U.S.C. § 3604.2 Simultaneously, respondents filed a

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virtually identical complaint against Hintze and its salespeople in the same court. The complaints, as illuminated by subsequent discovery, charged that petitioners had steered prospective Negro home buyers toward an integrated area of Bellwood approximately 12 by 13 blocks in dimension and away from other, predominately white areas. White customer, by contrast, allegedly were steered away from the integrated area of Bellwood. Four of the six individual respondents reside in this "target" area of Bellwood described in the complaint.3 The complaints further alleged that the

Village of Bellwood . . . has been injured by having [its] housing market . . . wrongfully and illegally manipulated to the economic and social detriment of the citizens of [the] village,

and that the individual respondents

have been denied their right to select housing without regard to race and have been deprived of the social and professional benefits of living in an integrated society.

App. 6, 99. Respondents requested monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief.

Petitioners moved for summary judgment in both cases, arguing that respondents had "no actionable claim or standing to sue" under the statutes relied upon in the complaint, that there existed "no case or controversy between the parties within the meaning of Article III of the Constitution," and that respondents failed to satisfy the prudential requirements for standing applicable in the federal courts. Id. at 78, 143. The District Judge presiding over the case against Gladstone and its employees decided that respondents were not within the

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class of persons to whom Congress had extended the right to sue under § 812. The court expressly adopted the reasoning of TOPIC v. Circle Realty, 532 F.2d 1273 (CA9 1976), a case involving facts similar to those here. In TOPIC, the Ninth Circuit decided that Congress intended to limit actions under § 812 of the Act to "direct victims" of Title VIII violations, even though, under Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 409 U.S. 205 (1972), standing under § 8104 of the Act, 42

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U.S.C. § 3610, extends to the broadest class of plaintiffs permitted by Art. III. Since the individual respondents had been acting only as testers and thus admittedly had not been steered away from any homes they might have wished to purchase, the court concluded that they were, at most, only indirect victims of Gladstone's alleged violations of the Act. As respondents' action was brought under § 812, the court ruled that they lacked standing under the terms of the Act. The court did not discuss Gladstone's contention that respondents lacked standing under Art. III and the prudential limitations on federal jurisdiction. The District Judge presiding over the case against Hintze adopted the opinion of the Gladstone court as his own and also granted summary judgment.

The [99 S.Ct. 1607] Court of Appeals for...

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