Thompson v. U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Dev., No. CIV.A. MJG-95-309.

Decision Date06 January 2005
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A. MJG-95-309.
Citation348 F.Supp.2d 398
PartiesCarmen THOMPSON, et al., Plaintiffs v. UNITED STATES DEPT. OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, et al., Defendants
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Andrew David Freeman, Brown, Goldstein and Levy LLP, Susan Goering, Barbara A. Samuels, Eleanor Montgomery, American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, Malissa Ruffner, Law Office, Terry J. Harris, Law Offices of Terry J. Harris, Baltimore, MD, Susan R. Podolsky, Jenner and Block, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Alison N. Barkoff, US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section, John A. Drennan, Anne L. Weismann, Carol A. Evans, Diane Kelleher, Jessika A. Lenner, Peter J. Phipps, Judry Laeb Subar, US Department of Justice Civil Division Federal Programs Branch, Frank Hunger, Ronald James Wiltsie, II, U.S. Department of Justice G/A, Joseph V. Jest, US Securities and Exchange Commission, Lisa Walker Scott, Housing and Development Law Institute, Washington, DC, Allen F. Loucks, Jennifer Lilore Huesman, Office of the United States Attorney, Elva Elizabeth Tillman, Harry S. Johnson, Wilbur D. Preston, Jr., William F. Ryan, Jr., Dana Petersen Moore, Whiteford Taylor and Preston, Thomas Bevely Corey, Law Office, Neal M. Janey, Sr., The Janey Law Firm, Charles Ross Diffenderffer, Brown, Diffenderffer and Kearney LLP, Michael Evan Blumenfeld, Brown and Sheehan LLP, Baltimore, MD, Lynne A. Battaglia, Court of Appeals of Maryland, Annapolis, MD, Deborah Sweet Byrnes, Whiteford, Taylor and Preston LLP, Michael Dale Oliver, Bowie and Jensen LLC, Towson, MD, for Defendants.

Kathleen A. Ellis, DLA, Piper, Rudnick, Gray, Cary and US LLP, George A. Nilson, Paul D. Shelton, Piper Rudnick LLP, Baltimore, MD, for Movants.

Mark J. Adams, Baltimore, MD, pro se.


GARBIS, District Judge.

This case was tried before the Court without a jury. The Court has heard the evidence, reviewed the exhibits, considered the materials submitted by the parties and had the benefit of the arguments of counsel.

As discussed herein, the instant case was brought on behalf of a class consisting of African-American residents of public housing units in Baltimore City claiming discrimination based on their race. Plaintiffs asserted, against Defendants1, a plethora of claims based upon a broad range of legal theories. Defendants, in response, presented just as wide a variety of procedural and substantive defenses.

At trial, the parties presented weeks of evidence pertaining to racial relations and public housing in Baltimore from the post-Civil War era through the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, with the principal focus upon events since the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Ed. of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kan., 347 U.S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954) ("Brown I").

Accordingly, the instant decision must address a vast quantity of evidence spanning more than a half century of governmental action and/or inaction in light of a comprehensive set of claims and defenses presented by the respective parties.

The Court now issues this Memorandum of Decision as its findings of fact and conclusions of law in compliance with Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

A. Background2

As the largest municipality in Maryland, a former slave state with a post emancipation policy of racial discrimination, Baltimore City historically had de jure racial segregation and a tradition of voluntary ethnic segregation as well.3 Certainly, other cities below the Mason-Dixon line, including Washington, D.C., practiced racial segregation and the racial discrimination in Maryland did not rise to the point that it did in certain states.4 Nevertheless, in 1954 there was, to a large extent, a recognizable "ghetto" within which lived essentially no Whites and virtually all of the Black residents of Baltimore City. Moreover, to the limited extent that there were Black residents of the counties in the Baltimore Region, the racial segregation there was, if different at all, even more pronounced.

In Baltimore City, until 1954, there were two separate school systems and there were, for all practical purposes, two separate downtowns. Whites frequented the large department stores, shops, theaters and restaurants of White Downtown in the Howard Street area. Blacks, while not legally excluded from the Howard Street stores were typically made less than welcome5 and were unable to utilize eating facilities or theaters. The result was that a separate Black Downtown developed in the Pennsylvania Avenue area.

In the private sector there was open racial discrimination. Barry Levinson's motion picture "Liberty Heights," set in 1950's Baltimore, shocked some modern Americans with its display of the sign that, for many years, was posted prominently outside a public swimming pool on Falls Road6 stating: "NO JEWS, DOGS OR COLOREDS ALLOWED."

In 1954, the leaders of then de jure segregated Baltimore City — a municipality with a population (majority White) approaching one million — had to consider what to do in light of the 1954 Supreme Court Brown I decision holding the maintenance of racially segregated schools to violate the Constitution. As particularly pertinent to the instant case, the City officials responsible for public housing decisions had to choose a course of action. They could have (as did the leadership in other segregated cities) decided to delay desegregation of public housing until such time as the Courts made it pellucid, beyond debate, that the principle that "separate but equal" public facilities were unconstitutional extended beyond the classroom. However, to their credit, they took the opposite approach.

Within a few months of the Brown I decision, HABC (the Housing Authority of Baltimore City) decided to desegregate its low-income housing units and took prompt action to carry out its decision. The prompt desegrative action, although contemporaneously considered precipitous by some who would have preferred a leisurely pace of change in racial relations, was acclaimed by those who sought progress in the civil rights area. Indeed, HABC was chosen to receive the 1955 Sidney Hollander Foundation Award for "its success in bringing White and Colored families together in the same projects."

During the four decades following Brown I, major demographic changes affected the housing patterns in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. The City lost many industrial jobs and experienced a major population decline as residents, primarily White and above average in affluence, moved to the counties while the City population diminished and became more than majority (and later about two-thirds) African-American.

Although historically segregated housing patterns continued to predominate in Baltimore, fair housing laws and court decisions, which made racially based residential covenants unenforceable, resulted in more racially diverse neighborhoods. By the 1990's there was essentially no area of Baltimore City effectively off limits to residents by virtue of their race or religion. Of course, the City did not become racially homogenized. Many of those whose economic condition permitted a choice of places to live, chose to live in areas in which their race or ethnic group was in the majority.

While many African-Americans who succeeded economically chose to live in majority Black neighborhoods, others, particularly those in public housing, did not have any realistic opportunity to live in a mixed race environment absent desgregative action by governmental entities. Baltimore City's well-intentioned efforts at slum clearance and urban renewal improved the physical environment of many communities and the living conditions of some public housing residents but did little to promote racial integration of City neighborhoods.

Over time, the public housing projects became virtually all-Black. Essentially no Whites moved into the formerly segregated all-Black projects while the formerly all-White projects, over time, became first predominantly, and later virtually entirely, African-American also. Moreover, because established neighborhoods tended to fight the development of additional family public housing in their communities, after the construction of Hollander Ridge in the 1970's little additional family public housing was added to the City's supply other than scattered site units.

By 1990, it was generally recognized that the high-rise family public housing projects were dangerous and inappropriate places for families. One of the beneficial results of the instant case was a Consent Decree whereby, pursuant to an agreed Court Order, the high-rise projects were demolished. Nevertheless, there have not been significant opportunities for African-American residents of Baltimore City public housing to reside in racially mixed, rather than predominantly African-American, areas.

In the instant case, Plaintiffs contend that since 1954 the leadership of Baltimore City, during the mayoral administrations of DeAlesandro, Jr. ("Old Tommy"), Grady, Goodman, McKeldin (second administration),7 D'Alesandro, III ("Young Tommy"), Schaeffer, Burns and Schmoke, engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against Blacks in regard to public housing. Plaintiffs further claim that, during the Schmoke administration, Defendants intentionally engaged in racial discrimination in violation of the United States Constitution and failed to take required action to ameliorate the effects of past race based discrimination in regard to public housing.

B. Summary of Decision8

Plaintiffs filed the instant case on January 31, 1995 asserting Constitutional and statutory claims. The case is, of course, governed by statutes of limitations that restrict the time period for...

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