CHICAGO (CN) – Twenty-one black residents of Merrillville, Ind., did not meet the burden of proof that town officials discriminated against them by failing to remove an unhealthy retention pond, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Residents of the predominantly-black Innsbrook neighborhood became concerned with algae and mosquitoes breeding in the pond and asked officials to reconsider an expansion which the residents believed would worsen the problem. The group filed suit in 2007, claiming that the officials had ignored their grievances but listened to concerns from the nearby neighborhood of Southmoor.
The disparate outcomes were racial racially motivated, favoring the predominantly-white Southmoor community, the Innsbrook residents claimed.
The 7th Circuit found no evidence of discrimination. In fact, the town offered the plaintiffs a private meeting to voice concerns about the expansion but no residents spoke up. Southmoor was not offered such a meeting.
“There is no dispute that the residents have a right to be treated without regard to their race [but] the residents failed to show that the defendants… deprived them of that right,” Judge John Tinder wrote.
Additionally, Southmoor and Innsbrook were not similar enough to establish a Fourteenth Amendment claim, the court found. While Innsbrook was opposing single-family homes, Southmoor residents faced an influx of multi-family rental units.
In fact, Southmoor did not even have a retention pond, the court noted.