LBAC WINS LONG-RUNNING FAIR HOUSING CASE FOR CITY OF POMONA

On June 29, 2006, LBAC, with David Lawrence as trial counsel, obtained a federal jury defense verdict in a case alleging violations of various fair housing laws under both state and federal law. At the crux of the case was an attempt in the mid to late 1990s by a Pomona City Councilperson to assist an organization of property owners in a drug and crime ridden area of Pomona. The unofficial organization was dubbed “KKAPS” which constituted the first letters of the streets encompassing the area. The unofficial KKAPS’ spokesman, Wilfred Keagy, was also a defendant but settled prior to trial. Plaintiffs, an African American property manager, Grace Cross, and a non-profit fair housing organization, Inland Mediation Board, claimed that the City through it Councilperson, aided KKAPS and created an agency relationship by preparing KKAPS agendas and mailers, sending them out on City stationary, having City officials attend the meetings, arranging for a place for the meetings on City property, and a variety of other services. Plaintiffs claimed that the City, through KKAPS, encouraged discrimination against African American tenants by the use of “code words” such as the “wish well list” which was a list of prior tenants of the area who had either left without paying rent or under other adverse circumstances. On one occasion, Mr. Keagy allegedly made remarks at a meeting attended by Ms. Cross that African Americans should not be rented to since they were the source of the problems in the neighborhood. Ms. Cross, deceased at the time of trial, claimed that she was frightened by the statements and tenor of the meeting and moved away from Pomona. In addition to their direct claims of discrimination, Plaintiffs claimed disparate impact and presented evidence of changes of racial composition in the KKAPS area, which was rebutted by the defense demographer. After ten days of trial, the federal jury found in favor of the City on all claims. The City had offered $100,000 to settle the case and the plaintiffs’ last demand was $1,048,579.