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Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in Baton Rouge Discrimination Case

Posted on 01. Apr, 2013 by

Last week, the Honorable Judge James Brady, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Louisiana, granted a motion for summary judgment in the caseOxford House, Inc., et al vs. City of Baton Rouge.  In his ruling, Judge Brady found that the City of Baton Rouge violated the Fair Housing Act and American with Disabilities Act by:

  • Refusing to grant Oxford House a reasonable accommodation to its Unified Development Code (UDC);
  • Engaging in intentional discrimination against Oxford House because of their association with disabled persons;
  • Enforcing a facially discriminatory zoning provision in the form of its “Special Homes” ordinance;
  • Retaliating against the plaintiffs after they filed a fair housing complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a fair housing lawsuit in federal court.

Documents uncovered as a result of the case indicate that the City of Baton Rouge has an extensive history of enforcing a zoning ordinance that is facially discriminatory against people with disabilities, and that City officials demonstrated intentional discrimination by attempting to use the UDC to shut Oxford Houses down in response to complaints from constituents.

In 2011, the City of Baton Rouge notified and then filed suit in state court against the owners of two Oxford Houses in Baton Rouge claiming that the houses were in violation of the UDC because more than two unrelated persons were living in a single-family home zoned as A-1.  Oxford House, with the assistance of Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), filed a fair housing complaint and lawsuit against the City, after the City denied multiple reasonable accommodation requests from Oxford House in relation to the two properties.  Under the Fair Housing Act, residents of Oxford Houses are considered to be people with disabilities.

Oxford House, Inc. is a nation-wide network of group homes for persons recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction. All Oxford Houses adhere to three major concepts: they are financially self-supporting, democratically run, and evict any resident that returns to active substance use. Individual Oxford Houses create a family atmosphere to allow residents to benefit from the therapeutic support of their peers in helping them stay clean and sober and recover from their addictions.

GNOFHAC attorneys and Oxford House’s General Counsel are representing the plaintiffs in the case.

GNOFHAC Executive Director James Perry remarks, “People recovering from addiction need a stable, supportive environment in order to be successful.  Oxford Houses offer this important resource, and also safeguard the surrounding neighborhood by strictly enforcing a no tolerance eviction policy should any resident return to substance abuse.  We are pleased with Judge Brady’s ruling because it upholds the civil rights of people with disabilities, and hope that the City of Baton Rouge will work assiduously to do the same moving forward.”

To read Judge Brady’s ruling granting Oxford House’s Motion for Summary Judgment, click here.

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