CIR sets national precedent in housing discrimination case

Washington, DC – CIR won an important victory in its defense of California resident Travis Compton, who had been accused of federal housing discrimination by a low-income housing developer. U.S. Federal District Court Judge Oliver Wanger late last week issued an order granting summary judgment in favor of Mr. Compton on all eleven claims of discrimination and breach of contract lodged against him.

According to Judge Wanger, there was no evidence of statements or actions by Mr. Compton that were discriminatory or that he was an active member of any housing discrimination conspiracy.

In 1997, Mr. Compton was appointed by the Mayor and City Council of Fresno, California to serve on a community advisory committee charged with making recommendations on proposed development plans. In that capacity, Mr. Compton voted and spoke against recommending bond funding for a low-income housing project proposed by Affordable Housing Development Corp. (“AHDC”). AHDC is a for-profit corporation that builds apartment com-plexes and serves as landlord for low-income tenants. As a consequence of exercising his First Amendment right to speak out on a matter brought before the advisory committee to which he had been appointed, Mr. Compton was sued by AHDC for housing discrimination.

In addition to suing the City of Fresno (which declined to approved the bond funding), AHDC and its principal officers, multimillionaire real estate developer Peter Herzog and Michael Conway, sued a number of individuals that had objected to the development. According to documents disclosed during discovery, Compton was included because he had made some comments at a meeting that Herzog felt were “mean.”

As a result of the lawsuit, Compton was forced to resign from the city advisory council and incurred tens of thousands of legal fees when the city refused to provide him with legal representation.

CEO Terence Pell commented, “This is another example of the misuse of federal discrimination law to stifle the expression of unpopular views by individuals. Now we have the spectacle of a for-profit housing developer using federal discrimination law to threaten, intimidate and harass citizens whose only crime is participating in public discussion about the use of public bonds to finance private real estate developments.”