United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
January 14, 1971
EDWARD L. HOLMGREN, PLAINTIFF,
LITTLE VILLAGE COMMUNITY REPORTER ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Decker, District Judge.
This is an action brought against three neighborhood Chicago
newspapers to permanently enjoin them from publishing classified
advertisements which allegedly indicate a preference for home
buyers and apartment tenants of particular national origins.
Plaintiff is an American citizen of Swedish extraction who,
according to his affidavit, has been injured by defendants'
advertisements. The ads express preferences for buyers and
tenants of various nationalities,*fn1 although Swedish is not
one of them.
Jurisdiction is founded on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. § 3612.
See Brown v. Lo Duca, 307 F. Supp. 102, 103-104 (E.D.Wis.
1969). The cause of action arises under 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c),
which makes it unlawful:
"To make, print, or publish, or cause to be made,
printed, or published any notice, statement, or
advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of
a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation,
or discrimination based on race, color, religion, or
national origin, or an intention to make any such
preference, limitation, or discrimination."
Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56,
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants, in responding to
the motion, have not denied publishing the ads but have instead
argued that they evince a preference on the part of sellers and
landlords to have purchasers and tenants who speak a certain
language. The ability to speak a given language, defendants
argue, is not related to national origin. The purpose of
requiring contracting parties to speak the same language, they
say, is to foster communication and understanding between the
parties, a reasonable purpose which purportedly does not violate
42 U.S.C. § 3604(c).
However, to say that the ability to speak a certain language is
not related to the country of origin of that language is mere
sophistry. See 1969 Duke Law Journal 731, 760. An advertisement
for a Polish-speaking tenant, for example, is tantamount to an
advertisement for an immigrant (or the offspring of an immigrant)
of Poland itself. It is significant that § 3604(c) makes it
unlawful not only to print an ad which indicates a preference
based on national origin, but also an ad which indicates "an
intention to make any such preference." Even if an ad for a
person who speaks a certain language is deemed not to indicate a
preference for a person of a certain national origin, a
proposition which I find untenable, then the ad at least
demonstrates "an intention" to make such a preference. Thus, the
ads which indicate a preference for a purchaser or a tenant who
speaks a particular language are unlawful under § 3604(c).
Defendants have not disputed plaintiff's assertion that ads for
purchasers and tenants of particular national origins, without
reference to the language they speak, are proscribed by §
3604(c). This is obvious from the face of the statute, and it
requires that further publications thereof be discontinued.
The court appreciates the difficulties inherent in any language
barrier that comes between parties negotiating a contract.
However, it should be noted that this decision only prohibits
defendants from printing the type of advertisements which
plaintiff has appended to his motion for summary judgment. That
is, defendants cannot publish ads which indicate a preference for
buyers or tenants of particular national origins. This decision
does not, however, preclude
the same sellers and landlords who are no longer permitted to
express national origin preferences in newspaper ads from
exercising such a preference in personal negotiations with
prospective buyers and tenants, provided, of course, that the
sellers and landlords come within the terms of 42 U.S.C. § 3603(b).
For the foregoing reasons, defendants are permanently enjoined
from printing or publishing any advertisements with respect to
the sale or rental of a dwelling which indicates a preference
based on national origin, or an intention to make any such
preference, including an advertisement directed to persons who
speak a particular language. 42 U.S.C. § 3612(c); F.R.Civ.P.
65(d). Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted.