On November 18, 2011, two undocumented Mexican immigrants and three Alabama fair housing groups filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the State of Alabama.
The plaintiffs, represented by the National Immigration Law Center, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, LatinoJustice, and private counsel, sought injunctive relief, declaratory relief, compensatory damages, and attorneys' fees, alleging
that an Alabama law violated the Fair Housing Act and the Supremacy and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, and threated to leave families across the state homeless. Specifically, Alabama HB 56 prohibited any individual from entering into a business transaction with the State without proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status. A separate Alabama law required that owners of mobile homes obtain annual registration tags from the State. Together, these two laws put undocumented immigrant mobile home owners in a difficult position: renew the tags and be subject to a felony prosecution under HB 56, or refrain from renewing the tags and risk other civil and criminal penalties.
On November 23, 2011, the District Court (Judge Myron H. Thomson) granted
the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order and temporarily enjoined the State from enforcing HB 56 against mobile home owners. Cent. Alabama Fair Hous. Ctr. v. Magee
, 2011 WL 5878363 (M.D. Ala. Nov. 23, 2011).
Two weeks later, after denying
the State's motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order and granting
the plaintiffs' motion to extend the order, the District Court imposed a preliminary injunction on the State. Cent. Alabama Fair Hous. Ctr. v. Magee
, 835 F. Supp. 2d 1165 (M.D. Ala. 2011). The Court held
that the plaintiffs were substantially likely to prevail on their claims that the enforcement of HB 56 against individuals seeking to renew their mobile home registrations intentionally discriminates against and has an unlawful disparate impact on Latinos, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The Court further held that the plaintiffs demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on their claim that federal immigration laws preempted HB 56, and that they would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction.
Based on this holding, the District Court (Judge Thompson) enjoined the State from: (1) requiring any person who attempts to pay the annual mobile home registration fee to prove his or her U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status; and (2) refusing to issue mobile home registration tags to any person because that person cannot prove his or her U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status. The Court further declared that it is not a criminal violation of HB 56 for an individual to obtain a registration decal without providing proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status.
On December 21, 2011, the State appealed the preliminary injunction. While this appeal was pending in the Eleventh Circuit, the parties conducted discovery. On May 17, 2013, the Eleventh Circuit (Judges Gerald Tjoflat, Charles Wilson, and Beverly Martin) dismissed the appeal as moot because in May 2012 the Alabama legislature amended HB 56 to exclude mobile home registrations. Cent. Alabama Fair Hous. Ctr. v. Comm'r, Alabama Dep't of Revenue
, 2013 WL 2372302 (11th Cir. May 17, 2013). The Court also vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.
With the claims for declaratory and injunctive relief rendered moot by the amended statute, the parties turned to the issue of attorneys' fees and costs. On December 27, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a motion for attorneys' fees and expenses, which was resolved after the State agreed to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys $230,000 in a private settlement. The District Court dismissed the case on May 6, 2014, upon stipulation of the parties. Perry Miska - 03/10/2014
Robert Lake - 06/22/2015