On August 9, 1966, a group of African American public housing residents brought suit against the Chicago Housing Authority ("CHA") in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU, alleged that CHA had segregated its public housing complexes through discriminatory site selection procedures. They brought suit on behalf of all African American Chicago residents who were in or had applied to Chicago public housing, which included approximately 43,000 individuals. Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that CHA intentionally chose sites for family public housing and adopted tenant assignment procedures in a racially discriminatory manner, which maintained existing patterns of racial residential separation throughout Chicago. Plaintiffs claimed that this violated their right to equal protection and against discriminatory impact protected by Title VI. Additionally, plaintiffs alleged that CHA violated these rights by failing to remedy the current housing segregation. Plaintiffs' requested relief included: (1) declaratory judgment that CHA had selected development sites in violation of plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory rights, (2) a permanent injunction against the racially discriminatory aspects of the public housing system, and (3) an order directing defendants to submit and carry out a plan for selection of future sites to eliminate those discriminatory practices.
In a companion case, Gautreaux et al. v. Romney
(66-1460), plaintiffs brought suit against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"). In the HUD suit, plaintiffs alleged that by approving funds for the development plans of the CHA (which violated plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory rights), HUD was liable for such violations as well. Since HUD's liability depended on plaintiffs' claims against CHA, District Court Judge Richard B. Austin stayed the HUD case until the CHA claims were addressed.
On March 2, 1967, Judge Austin denied in part and granted in part CHA's motion to dismiss. 265 F. Supp. 582 (N.D. Ill. 1967). Judge Austin denied the motion to dismiss for plaintiffs' counts regarding the placement of housing development sites. However, he granted the motion to dismiss for the claims that CHA violated plaintiffs' rights by failing to remedy the current racial separation. After years of significant discovery efforts on both sides, both parties moved for summary judgment.
On February 20, 1969, Judge Austin granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. 296 F. Supp. 907 (N.D. Ill. 1969). Judge Austin ruled that CHA's actions violated the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act with a policy of taking the racial character of the neighborhood into account when selecting sites for public housing development. While Judge Austin did not assert that CHA necessarily harbored a "subjectively racist attitude," he stated that CHA had intentionally maintained a system of public housing which discriminated against African Americans through racial segregation.
On July 1, 1969, Judge Austin entered a judgment order setting out the conditions of the injunction. 304 F. Supp. 736 (N.D. Ill. 1969). This order listed procedures CHA was to follow when selecting sites for new development, including using census data to ensure areas did not exceed certain minority density maximums. The order also required CHA to affirmatively desegregate current public housing and to report such efforts to the Department of Justice and the District Court, enjoined current development of housing projects in areas that had high minority density, and required that CHA alter its development procedures so that aldermen of white neighborhoods could not prevent development in their areas.
Months later, plaintiffs argued that CHA had failed to fulfill the court's reporting requirements to demonstrate best efforts of compliance. After a series of conferences with Judge Austin, the court entered an order on July 20, 1970, which required CHA to submit a proposal for certain HUD-approved developments with an altered timetable. CHA appealed this order. On December 16, 1970, the Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit (Judge F. Ryan Duffy) affirmed Judge Austin's order. 436 F.2d 306 (7th Cir. 1970). The U.S. Supreme Court denied CHA's petition for a writ of certiorari on April 19, 1971. 402 U.S. 922 (1971).
After the adjudication of the CHA case, Judge Austin dismissed all claims against HUD on September 1, 1970. Plaintiffs appealed, asserting that their claims against HUD were valid, given their victory against CHA. On September 10, 1971, the Court of Appeals (Judge F. Ryan Duffy) reversed Judge Austin's dismissal, ruling that HUD's approval of the discriminatory housing developments similarly violated plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory rights. 448 F.2d 731 (7th Cir. 1971).
On September 11, 1973, Judge Austin ruled that the injunctive relief provided to plaintiffs was to be enforced only within the city limits. 363 F. Supp. 690 (N.D. Ill. 1973). Plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals. On August 26, 1974, the Court of Appeals reversed, stating that the entire metropolitan area must be involved in the injunction. 503 F.2d 930 (7th Cir. 1974) (Justice Tom C. Clark, sitting by designation). CHA (with HUD joining) sought review in the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted certiorari. On April 20, 1976, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals in an opinion by Justice Potter Stewart. 425 U.S. 284 (1976). The Court found that no rule prevented the court from ordering correction action beyond a municipal boundary when a constitutional violation had occurred. Plaintiffs and HUD immediately entered into a one-year "letter of intent," in which the parties agreed to investigate the possibilities of metropolitan-wide relief.
On September 30, 1982, District Court Judge John P. Crowley approved a consent decree between plaintiffs and HUD. 523 F. Supp. 665 (N.D. Ill. 1981). This consent decree provided metropolitan area-wide relief by placing 7,100 individuals in assisted units in new areas (mainly in white suburbs), setting aside authority for 500 Section 8 certificates, reallocating development block grants funds, and placing an outside contractor (chosen by HUD and approved by plaintiffs), and court supervision of further development efforts. A large group of objectors appealed. On September 30, 1982, the Court of Appeals (Judge Wilbur F. Pell, Jr.) affirmed the consent decree, stating that it was reasonable and did not violate fair housing laws.
The case is still ongoing today, as CHA and HUD continue efforts to desegregate and achieve the requirements of the consent decree and Judge Austin's order.Dan Osher - 08/04/2013
Asma Husain - 01/31/2016