Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI), and St. James Investors Joint Venture and Jordan-Azzam, Inc. have settled a lawsuit alleging discriminatory advertising practices for $155,000. The suit filed by the non-profit fair housing group in 1990, was settled in October 1992.
St. James Investors owned the St. James Condominiums in the Guilford area of Baltimore City. Jordan-Azzam is the advertising agency that prepared the advertisements that were the subject of the lawsuit.
BNI's complaint focused on newspaper and magazine advertisements used to advertise the St. James throughout the Baltimore area between January 1989 and March 1990. Those advertisements showed whites but did not include black models. The exclusive use of white models, BNI said, indicated a racial preference for white purchasers. This constituted racial discrimination against blacks, in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Black people comprise about 26 percent of the total population of the Baltimore metropolitan area.
"Black readers view real estate advertising in the context of a long tradition of discriminatory advertising practices for housing in the Baltimore area," said Christopher Brown, attorney for BNI. "Real estate advertising that employs only white models may communicate the message that blacks are still excluded or not wanted."
Counsel for the St. James Investors, Wayne Schrader, stated that the defendants were confident that their advertising would have been vindicated if this case had gone to trial. He said they chose to settle the case out of court to avoid the potentially
onerous expense of litigation. The defendants said they are committed to the principles of fair housing and equal opportunity. Their ads for the St. James were never intended to convey any racially exclusionary message. The defendants said that they join BNI in condemning racial discrimination of all kinds.
Fifth Advertising Suit
BNI is devoted to the promotion of fair housing. Since 1983, it has been involved in 43 lawsuits alleging illegal discrimination in the sale, rental or advertising of housing. This case is one of five lawsuits BNI has brought alleging discriminatory advertising practices. Three of those suits have been settled under terms favorable to fair housing; one was lost; and one is still pending. (See November Advocate).
Proceeds of this settlement will be used to compensate the individual plaintiffs who were parties to this lawsuit, for attorney fees and other legal expenses, and to fund fair housing monitoring by BNI.
Attorneys for BNI are C. Christopher Brown of the Baltimore firm of Brown, Goldstien and Levy and Bradford M. Berry of the Washington law offices of Miller, Cassidy, Larroca and Lewin. The attorney for the St. James Investors is Wayne A. Schrader of the Washington, D.C. firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.
Inquiries concerning this case should be addressed to the plaintiffs' attorneys at (410) 962-1030 or (202) 293-6400 or to Martin Dyer at BNI, (410) 243-4400. Inquiries may also be addressed to the St. James Investors' attorney, at (202) 955-8556.