Plaintiff receives highest-ever damage award after discriminatory statements

(CHICAGO, Ill., Aug. 8, 2007) -- Sheila White, a Single Mother of two who has assiduously worked her way through HUD’s Administrative Adjudication Process for the past nine years, is now at the threshold of receiving compensation for her injuries. After having been told in August of 1998 that she couldn’t rent Respondent Gertie Wooten’s apartment because she has two “children but no husband” and working with HUD through its inadvertently-attentuated investigation which concluded with HUD’s April, 2001 Charge of Discrimination, Ms. White worked her way through two Hearings which were delayed and complicated by Respondent’s refusal to cooperate. After receiving now-retired HUD ALJ Andretta’s late-2004 Initial Decision finding that Respondent’s conduct did not violate the Fair Housing Act, Ms. White appealed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed that Decision on February 2, 2007. Now, Ms. White has received an Initial Order on Remand from HUD’s Office of Administrative Law Judges dated August 1, 2007 which awards her and her children $12,000 in damages, the largest such award to date. Presiding Administrative Law Judge Arthur A. Liberty also ruled that Respondent’s conduct merited a $2,500 civil penalty. Judge Liberty’s Order came after Ms. White’s Counsel sought a Final Order, but HUD’s Office of Administrative Law Judges (“OALJ”) asserted it lacked Jurisdiction. HUD’s Office of General Counsel (“OGC”) then moved OALJ for a Final Order and was issued yet another “Notice of No Jurisdiction,” but the HUD Secretary Reversed and Remanded to OALJ after being Petitioned for Review. Ms. White had already filed suit in federal court seeking to force HUD to enforce its mandate in light of the Seventh Circuit’s Ruling and HUD has suggested that the Secretary’s Reversal moots that action seeking injunctive relief and her costs of enforcement.

Things aren’t quite that simple, however, because it’s unclear whether any or all of the Orders issued are fully-valid due to the timing of OGC’s Petition to the Secretary. This precise fact pattern having never happened before in any known administrative adjudication (whether at HUD or any other Agency), Ms. White’s Counsel filed a second appeal in the Seventh Circuit seeking its review of HUD’s actions so as to ensure that the award is fully-enforceable and immune from collateral attack in the collection stage. 

The ALJ’s Order will become Final on August 31st if it wasn’t issued improperly. These and other procedural questions are anticipated to be resolved shortly; meanwhile, Ms. White’s Counsel has filed a series of pleadings in multiple venues to be certain her rights are fully-protected. In the meantime, Sheila White can attest that if you have been discriminated against and you keep after HUD long enough, the results can be important: 

  • bringing Aggrieved Parties a significant measure of relief,
  • sending a clear warning to Housing Providers who don’t take their obligations under the Fair Housing Act seriously
  • and – with the help of an attorney willing to go the distance – providing uniformity and clarity to HUD’s process for the benefit of the public at large. 

For further details, contact Ms. White’s Counsel, Leslie Matlaw at www.fairhousinglaw.net.

ALJ Liberty’s August 1, 2007 Decision
The Seventh Circuit's Reversal after Briefing and Oral Argument