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New Federal Civil Rights Unit Created In MI

BAY CITY, MI -  Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade and FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena announced the creation of a civil rights unit in the Eastern District of Michigan. This is a renewed effort to ensure that all citizens enjoy the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

This unit is headed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Levy. It will handle investigations and litigation of housing discrimination cases under the Fair Housing Act, discrimination by mortgage lenders and small business lenders under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, employment discrimination and police misconduct, among others. In addition, the office has set up a hotline where citizens can call to report suspected civil rights violations. The number of the hotline is 313-226-9151.

Working together, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s office have already made considerable progress to protect the rights of Michiganders. For example:

  • The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division have prevailed in a number of fair housing cases in the district; most recently, on Aug. 6, 2010, a jury awarded damages to victims of housing discrimination in Ypsilanti, Mich. The jury found that Glenn Johnson subjected female tenants to discrimination on the basis of sex, including severe, pervasive and unwelcome sexual harassment, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. The complaint also alleged, and the jury agreed, that Ronnie Peterson and First Pitch Properties LLC, the owners of the properties, are liable for Johnson’s discriminatory conduct.
  • This summer, the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office settled a case alleging racial discrimination involving an apartment complex in Ann Arbor, Mich. The owners and operators of Ivanhoe House Apartments agreed to pay $82,500 to settle a lawsuit that alleged that they had discriminated against African-American home-seekers in denying them housing based on their race.
  • Earlier this year, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in a civil rights case brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act by Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Services (Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Services v. Richmond Township). Sacred Heart alleged that it was denied a zoning permit because it provides services to individuals with substance abuse issues. The government’s brief was filed in response to a motion to dismiss, which United States District Judge Marianne O. Battani denied. The case is currently set for trial for Oct. 25, 2010.
  • The prosecution of hate crimes is also a top priority for the Department. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 provided critical new tools for hate crimes prosecutions, allowing for the federal prosecution of violent bias crimes based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. On Sept. 7, 2010, U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington in Bay City, Mich., ruled in favor of the Department of Justice, dismissing a complaint that questioned the constitutionality of the new law. The judge ruled that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the Act because they did not allege that they intended to violate it, and because it is entirely speculative that their conduct would ever be prosecuted under the Act.

The renewed commitment of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will ensure that many of our nation’s most critical and treasured laws continue to fulfill their purpose of advancing equal opportunity and protecting the rights of every American.


STORY TAGS: GENERAL , BLACKS , AFRICAN AMERICAN , LATINO , HISPANIC , MINORITIES , CIVIL RIGHTS , DISCRIMINATION , RACISM , DIVERSITY , RACIAL EQUALITY , BIAS , EQUALITY



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