U.S., Realtors Square Off in Housing Case

     ATLANTA (CN) – The federal government and a real estate agent have accused one another of failing to meet legal deadlines in a housing discrimination case in Federal Court. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, on behalf of the National Fair Housing Alliance, claims two real estate agencies and a realtor steered prospective white clients away from housing in black neighborhoods.

     The original complaint, filed in November 2008, was against Coldwell Banker Joe T. Lane Realty and agent Rodney Foreman. However, Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty Company was added as a defendant after it bought Lane Realty’s assets, including Lane Realty’s agents and customer lists.
     The housing alliance investigated Lane Realty’s sales practices by dispatching “testers” to compare how the companies treated home buyers of different races. Testers are people who don’t intend to buy a home, but probe into the availability of housing to see if the company’s practices are discriminatory. The investigation lasted from October 2003 to August 2005.
     The United States recently filed a motion for default against Lane Realty, saying the “defendant has failed to plead or otherwise defend against the United States’ complaint within the allotted time.” Lane Realty missed the April 4 deadline to act.
     Attorney Daniel Byrne, who represents Foreman, countered with another motion to dismiss without prejudice, claiming the U.S. Attorney’s Office failed to serve the original complaint to Foreman, although Foreman was served with the amended complaint filed in January.
     Attorneys representing Bullard Realty filed an objection and opposition to the motion of default against co-defendant Lane Realty, because a default judgment against Lane Realty qualifies as a judgment against Bullard Realty. In fact, Bullard Realty filed a cross-claim asserting that it had “purchased Lane Realty’s assets, but it did not assume any of Lane Realty’s liabilities and obligations.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office argued against Foreman’s motion to dismiss, saying Foreman failed to mention that “he verbally agreed to accept service and received the waiver of service of summons within 120 days of the filing of the original complaint. However, unlike the other defendants in this case, Mr. Foreman failed to execute and return the waiver to the United States so it could be filed on the court’s docket within 120 days of the original complaint.”
     The government added that dismissal “would be of no benefit to any of the parties, including defendant Foreman,” as the United States would “simply refile the same complaint.” Assuming Foreman filed the same answers, “the scheduling order and court’s deadlines would have to be extended to accommodate these redundant filings,” the government claims.
     At any rate, the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to build its case against Foreman and the real estate companies.
     “We’ve begun discovery on the case and are awaiting documents from the defendants,” says Alejandro Miyar, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice. “As far as the validity of the defendant’s complaint, the opposition to motion to dismiss speaks for itself.”

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