As I write this story, eight years after the slumlord law suit was filed, it’s still going on! The appeals process went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court and now is set for a jury trial on this issue:
Even if Dawkins evenly enforced his well-
intentioned law regardless of skin color,
given that almost all the landlords are white
and the tenants are not, could Dawkins have
found a better way to enforce the City’s
legitimate goals in a way that did not result
in minorities losing out on housing?
Of course I can’t wait to have my day in court to tell the Jury that the question and the answer are just the opposite: It’s about poor tenants getting their places fixed-up and having a safe, decent, place to live, not losing a place to live.
The outcome of any court case is never a sure thing, but I’m confident of victory because the day the Mayor hired me he handed me a freshly minted study, Chronic Problem Properties in Saint Paul: Case Study Lessons, and said it was to be my Bible. That study laid out with painstaking iron-clad research that problem properties cost the City $2.5 million dollars every year and that every imaginable way to address them had been tried – except one: Dawkins’ 1989 law. And that is the technical issue in the law suit:
Even if the jury decides there was an adverse
disparate impact on minorities, since the
intentions were good there can be no liability
if there was no other way to reach the goal
of providing safe housing [and the Study
conclusively demonstrates every conceivable
way had been tried].
It’s my belief we won’t ever get to that technical issue because the facts will show there was no adverse disparate impact, that the impact was all beneficial to minorities and the City as a whole. But talk about injustice! There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Minnesotans in cities and towns across the State who live in substandard housing who could benefit from this law, but folks are missing out because ever since I got sued very few cities have been willing to try the law for fear of being sued. Progress has been stopped, hopefully only temporarily.*
*Full length version of this legal case is set forth in the appendix to the hard copy.
Tomorrow: At Last! First Dance Story