Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood - 441 U.S. 91 (1979)
U.S. Supreme Court
Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91 (1979)
Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood
Argued November 29, 1978
Decided April 17, 1979
441 U.S. 91
Section 812 of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (Act) provides that the rights granted by § 804 against racial discrimination in the sales or rental of housing "may be enforced by civil actions in appropriate United States district courts." Respondents (the village of Bellwood, one Negro and four white residents of Bellwood, and one Negro resident of a neighboring municipality) brought separate actions in District Court under § 812 against petitioners (two real estate brokerage firms and certain of their employees), alleging that they had violated § 804 by "steering" prospective Negro homeowners toward a specified 12- by 13-block integrated area ("target" area) of Bellwood and by steering white customers away from the "target" area. It was further alleged that Bellwood had been injured by having its housing market wrongfully manipulated to the economic and social detriment of its citizens, and that the individual respondents had been denied their right to select housing without regard to race, and had been deprived of the social and professional benefits of living in an integrated society. Monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief was sought. Prior to bringing suit, the individual respondents, purportedly, but not in fact, seeking to purchase homes, had acted as "testers" in an attempt to determine whether petitioners were engaged in racial steering. Four of the six individual respondents reside in the "target" area. The District Court granted summary judgment for the petitioners in both cases, holding that respondents, who had acted only as testers, and thus were, at most, indirect victims of the alleged violations, lacked standing to sue under § 812, which was limited to actions by "direct victims" of violations. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that, although the individual respondents lacked standing in their capacity as testers, they were entitled to prove that the discriminatory practices documented by their testing deprived them, as residents of the adversely affected area, of the social and professional benefits of living in an integrated society; that the requirements of Art. III had been satisfied as to both the individual respondents and respondent village; that § 810 of the Act -- which provides that a "person aggrieved" by a violation of the
Act may seek conciliation from the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and, if conciliation fails, bring suit in district court -- and § 812 provide alternative remedies available to precisely the same class of plaintiffs; and that the conclusion in Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 409 U. S. 205, 409 U. S. 209, that standing under § 810 extends "as broadly as is permitted by Article III,'" is applicable to cases brought under § 812.
1. The Court of Appeals correctly interpreted §§ 810 and 812 as providing alternative remedies to precisely the same class of plaintiffs, with the result that standing under § 812, like that under § 810, is as broad as is permitted by Art. III. Trafficante, supra. This construction of the Act is consistent with both its language and its legislative history, and with the interpretation of HUD, the agency primarily assigned to implement and administer the Act. Pp. 441 U. S. 100-109.
2. The facts alleged in the complaints and revealed by initial discovery are sufficient to provide standing to respondents under Art. III, except with respect to the two individual respondents who do not reside within the "target" area, and thus summary judgments for petitioners should not have been entered. Pp. 441 U. S. 109-116.
(a) If, as alleged, petitioners' sales practices actually have begun to rob Bellwood of its racial balance and stability, the village has standing to challenge the legality of that conduct. Pp. 441 U. S. 109-111.
(b) The allegation that the "target" area is losing its integrated character because of petitioners' conduct is sufficient to satisfy Art. III with respect to the individual respondents who reside in that area. The constitutional limits of these respondents' standing to protest the intentional segregation of their community do not vary simply because that community is defined in terms of city blocks rather than, as in Trafficante, supra, by reference to apartment buildings, but instead are determined by the presence or absence of a "distinct and palpable injury" to respondents. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U. S. 490, 422 U. S. 501. Moreover, to the extent that the complaints allege economic injury to these respondents resulting from a diminution in the value of their homes due to petitioners' conduct, convincing evidence of such a decrease in value would be sufficient under Art. III to allow standing to contest the legality of that conduct. Pp. 441 U. S. 111-115.
569 F.2d 1013, affirmed in part.
POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined.
REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 441 U. S. 116.