CIR won an important free speech victory in 2006 in its defense of California resident Travis Compton. Compton had been accused of federal housing discrimination by a low-income housing developer angry over Compton’s public comments critical of the developer’s plans to seek tax exempt bond funding for his project. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Compton’s speech was protected by the First Amendment. AHDC v. Fresno was one of the first cases in the nation to challenge the use of federal anti-housing discrimination law to silence public opposition to a privately developed housing project.
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 complexes 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.
The Court ruled not only that citizens have a right to speak out but that they shouldn’t have to spend a decade in court defending that right. The Court ordered the plaintiff-housing developer to pay our client’s attorneys’ fees.