NAACP v. Harris, Civ. A. No. 78-850-S.

Decision Date27 April 1983
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 78-850-S.
Citation567 F. Supp. 637
PartiesNAACP, et al., Plaintiffs, v. HARRIS, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts

Edward J. Barshak, Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, Boston, Mass., for plaintiffs.

Nancy A. Serventi, Asst. U.S. Atty., Boston, Mass., for defendants.


SKINNER, District Judge.

In this action for injunctive and declaratory relief, the plaintiffs assert that the defendants, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the local administrators of the Department collectively (hereinafter referred to institutionally as "HUD") failed to take measures mandated by various statutes and the Constitution to prevent racial discrimination and promote fair housing in the administration of federal grants to the City of Boston ("the City"). The grants were of two types, Urban Development Action Grants ("UDAG") and Community Development Block Grants ("CDBG"). The claims of some of the individual plaintiffs with respect to UDAG grants were dismissed for lack of standing pursuant to remand from the Court of Appeals (reversing in part the order of this court dismissing all the UDAG claims). NAACP v. Harris, 607 F.2d 514 (1st Cir.1979). The motion to dismiss with respect to CDBG grants was denied by this court so that at the time of trial all the plaintiffs remained in the case with respect to CDBG claims.

Standing of Individual Plaintiffs.

At trial no evidence was offered on behalf of any plaintiff except the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Boston Chapter ("NAACP"). No injury in fact having been established as to the individual plaintiffs, this action is dismissed with respect to all plaintiffs except the NAACP.

Standing of NAACP.

There was no evidence of specific injury in fact to any identified member of the NAACP. Evidence supporting the standing of the NAACP appears only in the testimony of the president of the local chapter, Joseph D. Feaster.1 This testimony supports the following conclusions:

(1) The local chapter of the NAACP actively represents the interest of black people in metropolitan Boston, and it does not restrict its activities to its members. See NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 83 S.Ct. 328, 9 L.Ed.2d 405 (1963). The members, however, are a principal source of its funds through their dues, and are both black and white.

(2) The discriminatory administration by the City of UDAG and CDBG funds caused injury in fact to NAACP's member and nonmember constituency.

(3) The City's racial discrimination in housing and job opportunities was contrary to the goals of the NAACP and therefore interfered with the efforts of the NAACP to achieve racial justice, thus causing injury in fact to NAACP.

NAACP argues that it has both representative standing and standing in its own right to redress its own injury in fact. In Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, 455 U.S. 363, 379, 102 S.Ct. 1114, 1124, 71 L.Ed.2d 214 (1982), the Supreme Court considered the independent standing of an organization called Housing Opportunities Made Equal ("HOME"). The function of HOME was "to assist equal access to housing through counseling and other referral services". It alleged that its efforts had been frustrated by the defendant's activities. The Court ruled that HOME had standing in its own right:

Such concrete and demonstrable injury to the organization's activities — with the consequent drain on the organization's resources— constitutes far more than simply a setback to the organization's abstract social interests, see Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 at 739 92 S.Ct. 1361 at 1368, 31 L.Ed.2d 636 1972. Id.

The present case appears to me to fall within the rule of Haven Realty, and to be equally distinguishable from Sierra Club v. Morton, See generally, Chayes, The Supreme Court 1981 Term — Forward: Public Law Litigation and the Burger Court, 96 Harv.L.R. 4, 8-26 (1982).

In the absence of any contrary evidence, I have no reason to disbelieve Mr. Feaster's conclusion that the organization has suffered injury in fact. Accordingly, I find and rule that the NAACP has standing in its own right to pursue redress in this action.

A second basis for standing is the NAACP's status as a representative of black people in Boston, some of whom are its members.

An association has standing to bring suit on behalf of its members when: (a) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (c) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.

Hunt v. Washington Apple Advertising Commission, 432 U.S. 333, 343, 97 S.Ct. 2434, 2441, 53 L.Ed.2d 383 (1977).

The NAACP clearly qualifies under (b), see NAACP v. Button, supra, and where only declaratory and injunctive relief are sought, it qualifies under (c). Mr. Feaster testified that the discriminatory action by the City has adversely affected the members of the NAACP, who would have had standing to sue in their own right. He cites no names, places, dates or other supporting testimony. Mr. Feaster did not distinguish between injury in fact to members with respect to UDAG grants and injury in fact to members with respect to CDBG grants.

Failure to condition CDBG grants to improve the lot of black people generally is likely to affect all black people in the City, including the black members of the NAACP. Plaintiff's complaint about UDAG funds, however, has centered primarily on the failure to provide low-income housing for minorities. I can make no assumption as to whether members of NAACP are included among the specific segment of the population which qualifies for low-income housing. It is clear, however, that this segment of the population includes a large proportion of black people living within the area served by the plaintiff.

In view of the actual holding in Hunt v. Washington Apple Advertising Commission, supra, I am persuaded that injury in fact to an actual formal membership is not an essential element of representational standing. The Washington Apple Advertising Commission is actually a state agency and the apple growers who suffered the alleged injury in fact were accurately described as its "constituency", since it obviously was not a membership organization. The NAACP's membership is in fact different from its constituency. Its membership consists of both white and black people, and is the principal source of its funds. Its constituency, however, according to Feaster, consists of all the black people in metropolitan Boston. It does not purport to directly represent the interests of its white members. Hunt would appear to permit standing to be based on injury in fact to a defined and discrete constituency. I recognize that Hunt can be distinguished on the ground that the apple growers possessed the "indicia of membership in an organization". They elected the members of the Commission from among themselves and financed its activities through assessments. The nonmember constituency of the NAACP does not possess these indicia. Nevertheless, the Court has relaxed the requirement of formal membership, and I conclude that it is both reasonable and sound policy to recognize the historic role of the NAACP as an appropriate representative of black people within the jurisdiction of the local chapter. See NAACP v. Button, supra; Chayes, op. cit.


Racial segregation and racial discrimination in public and private housing prevailed in all sections of Boston throughout the period 1977 to the present. The black population of the City increased from 22% to 30% between 1970 and 1980 and that the black population consisted of a larger proportion of families with children than occurred among the white population. The housing stock available to low-income families with children has decreased during the same period, and the vacancy rate in low-income housing at the time of trial was only 3.7%. Part of the decrease has been caused by the condemnation of approximately 4,000 units of public housing administered by the Boston Housing Authority as a result of bad maintenance, bad management and vandalism by tenants. Other loss of low-income housing has occurred through the rehabilitation and "gentrification" of previously marginal housing, which in its rehabilitated form is affordable only by middle- and upper-income people, most of whom are white.

There is a housing emergency in Boston.

White and black households in need of housing assistance substantially differ in several respects: whereas among whites 74% are renters and 26% are owners, among blacks 92% are renters and 8% are owners; additionally, while 44% of white renter households are elderly and 56% are families (i.e., households with children), only 26% of black renter household are elderly and 74% are family. The median income of white families is substantially higher than the median of black families. Thus, black households are more likely than white to be renters, family, and low income. The neighborhoods of Boston have traditionally been racially and ethnically discrete. The black population is centered in Roxbury, South Roxbury, Dorchester and parts of Mattapan. South Boston, East Boston, Charlestown, the North End of Boston, Bay Village, Beacon Hill and most of the Back Bay are predominantly white neighborhoods, though segregated by ethnic background. Racial violence is common and both blacks and whites are afraid to live, work or travel in certain areas of the city thought to be "the turf" of the other race.2 These fears are justified. There are some areas of the city in which the racial population is mixed, namely, Mission Hill, Brighton-Allston and certain sections of Roslindale, Hyde Park and parts of Dorchester, Mattapan and the South End.

The population of public housing projects follows the racial...

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