Single mother tells ALJ and HUD Secretary: "Do Your Job"

(Chicago, IL, May. 29, 2007) -- In what is believed to be the first such case filed under the Fair Housing Act, a civil rights victim has filed suit in federal court, seeking issuance of the extraordinary Writ of Mandamus for HUD’s continuous failure of enforcement.

Mandamus is an infrequently-utilized common-law remedy (now codified in several statutes, among them, 28 U.S.C. Chapter 85 [Action to Compel an Officer of the United States to perform his duty]). Complainant Sheila White first filed her fair housing complaint with HUD in the Fall of 1998, when a landlord explicitly refused to show her an apartment because she is a single mother. HUD took three years to investigate the case, finally issuing its Charge of Discrimination in May of 2001, but instead of promptly concluding the Administrative Hearing process within six months as the statute and regulations require, now-retired HUD Administrative Law Judge Robert A. Andretta presided over the case for 999 days before issuing his Initial Decision dismissing Ms. White’s claims of having been subjected to discriminatory statements and intimidation, harassment, and retaliation for having lawfully asserted her civil rights through the administrative process.

The HUD Secretary declined to modify or reverse ALJ Andretta’s Initial Ruling, which became final by operation of law on January 3, 2004. After securing the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal’s unanimous reversal on the facts early in February of this year, Ms. White contacted HUD several times, seeking its cooperation in filing a Motion with HUD’s Office of Administrative Law Judges to Issue a Final Ruling on her Damages and the Government's Civil Penalty.

But despite her fair housing rights having been were upheld by the Court of Appeals, the Government continues to oppose her efforts. Christopher C. Wang, Counsel for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Section (who vigorously opposed her appeal on the grounds that the landlord’s refusal was "ambiguous" and "not clearly attributable" despite the landlord’s own admission to the HUD investigator that she had, in fact, refused Ms. White because she had two children "but no husband") has since argued to the Seventh Circuit that Ms. White should not be allowed to recoup the substantial cost of her appeal.

And last week, HUD’s Chief Administrative Law Judge Arthur A. Liberty ruled that HUD "lacked jurisdiction" to issue a Final Order, the last remaining step in Sheila White’s eight-year quest at HUD so that she can gain relief for the landlord’s strict-liability discriminatory statements which "indicated disfavor for her familial status because her statements would allow an 'ordinary listener' to infer she had a preference against White due to her familial status." White v. HUD Secretary, 475 F. 3d 898, 908 (7th Cir. 2007).

Upon confirming that her Counsel had filed the Mandamus Petition naming Judge Liberty and HUD’s Secretary Alfonso Jackson, Sheila White responded, "When the lawyers came out of Judge Andretta’s chambers [at the Hearing], I heard him say, 'I've got real cases to work on, let’s get this over with.' I remember telling my lawyer when we rode down the elevator, 'I’ll go before Congress if I have to – HUD has been brushing me off to the side since Day One."

Ms. White’s Counsel has also filed a Motion before the Seventh Circuit advising of HUD’s failure to enforce the remand. For further information, see (links provided below) documents filed in Case Numbers 07-CV-2944 (N. Dist. Ill.) and 05-1252 (White v. HUD Secretary, 475 F. 3d 898 (7th Cir. 2007)) or contact Ms. White’s Counsel, Leslie V. Matlaw, P.C. at 312-804-3527. 1252&submit=showdkt&yr=05&num=1252 

NOTE: Public access to Ms. White’s Petition for Mandamus can be accessed through the U.S. District Court’s PACER system (NOTE: Login & Password required). The Petition, along with Pleadings related to Department of Justice’s Opposition to Ms. White’s attempt to recoup the costs of her appeal, are also posted and may be viewed at the website.