United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
August 19, 1985
RONNIE L. STACKHOUSE, PLAINTIFF,
DONALD DESITTER, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aspen, District Judge:
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Ronnie L. Stackhouse ("Stackhouse") brings this
action against defendant Donald DeSitter ("DeSitter"), alleging
violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1982 and
3617. Stackhouse, a black resident of Cicero, Illinois, claims
that DeSitter, a white Cicero resident, "interfered with and
intimidated him with respect to his housing rights" by
firebombing and otherwise damaging his automobile. On the
parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, which neither party
supported with the citation of any case law, the Court granted
DeSitter's motion and denied Stackhouse's motion. Stackhouse v.
DeSitter, 566 F. Supp. 856 (N.D.Ill. 1983). Presently before the
Court is Stackhouse's motion to reconsider that decision. For the
reasons set forth below, Stackhouse's motion to reconsider is
denied in part and granted in part.
Sections 1981 and 1982
Although Stackhouse has now cited some legal authority to
bolster his claims, we decline to modify our ruling that §§ 1981
and 1982 should not be read so broadly as to encompass the acts
complained of in Stackhouse's complaint.*fn1 The Supreme Court
has held that § 1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as
well as public, in the sale or rental of property. Jones v.
Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, 413, 88 S.Ct. 2186, 2189, 20
L.Ed.2d 1189 (1968). But the Jones Court also noted that
"[w]hatever else it may be, 42 U.S.C. § 1982 is not a
comprehensive open housing law," and the Court stressed the
"sharp contrast" between § 1982 and the much more expansive Fair
Housing Act ("the Act"), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 3601-3631. Id.,
392 U.S. at 413-14, 88 S.Ct. at 2189-90; see also Cornelius v.
City of Parma, 374 F. Supp. 730, 743 (N.D.Ohio 1974). Thus,
although the language of § 1982 should not be construed too
narrowly, Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc., 396 U.S. 229,
237, 90 S.Ct. 400, 404, 24 L.Ed.2d 386 (1969), it clearly does
not reach every act of racial discrimination that is somehow
related to housing.*fn2 Stackhouse contends that the courts have
applied the same tests for housing violations under
§ 1981 as under § 1982; as with the latter section, we believe §
1981 should not be read so broadly as to apply to this case.
Accordingly, Stackhouse's motion to reconsider is denied with
respect to his §§ 1981 and 1982 claims.
Stackhouse's claim under the Fair Housing Act is a different
Congress has declared that the purpose of the Act is "to
provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing
throughout the United States." 42 U.S.C. § 3601. The Act
establishes a strong and unquestionable congressional intent to
use every available means to limit public and private conduct
which prevents racial minorities from escaping urban ghettos and
obtaining housing in the suburbs. Metropolitan Housing
Development Corp. v. Village of Arlington Heights, 469 F. Supp. 836,
845 (N.D.Ill. 1979), aff'd, 616 F.2d 1006 (7th Cir. 1980).
The language of the Act is "broad and inclusive" and subject to
"generous construction." Id., 616 F.2d at 1011, quoting
Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., 409 U.S. 205,
209, 212, 93 S.Ct. 364, 367, 368, 34 L.Ed.2d 415 (1972).
Stackhouse claims that DeSitter violated § 3617 of the Act.
Section 3617 provides that:
It shall be unlawful to coerce, intimidate,
threaten, or interfere with any person in the
exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his having
exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his having
aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise
or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by
section 3603, 3604, 3605, or 3606 of this title. This
section may be enforced by appropriate civil action.
Section 3617 refers to rights granted or protected by §§
3603-3606 of the Act. As noted in our previous opinion, § 3604 is
the only one of these sections arguably applicable to
Stackhouse's suit; it makes unlawful various practices including,
inter alia: refusing to sell or rent a dwelling, or otherwise
making it unavailable, because of race; discrimination in
providing services or facilities connected with sales or rentals;
publishing statements which indicate a preference or limitation
based upon race; and falsely representing that a dwelling is not
available because of race.*fn3 We also observed that it was
unsettled whether § 3617 could be violated by conduct which did
not also violate one of the other enumerated sections. The
Seventh Circuit has expressly declined to decide this question,
Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. v. Arlington Heights,
558 F.2d 1283, 1288 n. 5 (7th Cir. 1977), cert. denied,
434 U.S. 1025, 98 S.Ct. 752, 54 L.Ed.2d 772 (1978), and the court in
Laufman v. Oakley Building & Loan Co., 408 F. Supp. 489 (S.D.Ohio
1976), addressed the issue in dicta.*fn4
We now hold that § 3617 may be violated absent a violation of §
3603, 3604, 3605 or 3606. In the first place, we agree with the
Laufman court — reading § 3617 as dependent on a violation of the
enumerated sections would render § 3617 superfluous. Whenever
possible, each provision of a legislative enactment is to be
interpreted as meaningful and not as surplusage. Id., 408 F. Supp.
Second, the wording of the statute itself indicates that a
violation of §§ 3603-3606 will sometimes, but not always, be
involved. Section 3617 makes it "unlawful to coerce, intimidate,
threaten, or interfere with any person" in three distinct
circumstances: (1) in the exercise or enjoyment of any right
protected by §§ 3603-3606; (2) on account of the person's having
exercised or enjoyed such a right; and (3) on account of his
having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or
enjoyment of such a right. In the first situation, the prohibited
coercive conduct might well interrupt the exercise of some
enumerated right, resulting, in violations of both § 3617 and
another statutory section. In the second and third circumstances,
however, the coercive or threatening conduct which violates §
3617 occurs after the enumerated rights have been exercised, and
these rights might not be violated themselves. One example of a
situation falling within the scope of the third phrase is when an
apartment building owner fires or otherwise retaliates against a
building manager who has rented a unit to a black (or other
minority member) against the owner's wishes. Courts in these
cases have had no difficulty in finding a violation of § 3617,
even when §§ 3603-3606 have been complied with. E.g., Smith v.
Stechel, 510 F.2d 1162 (9th Cir. 1975); Tokaji v. Toth,
P.H.E.O.H. Rptr. ¶ 13,679 (N.D.Ohio 1974). Similarly, the second
phrase prohibits coercive acts taken against persons who already
have exercised their rights to fair housing.
This is precisely what Stackhouse has alleged. He claims that
after he and his family exercised their right to rent an
apartment free of racial discrimination, as protected by § 3604,
DeSitter attempted to frighten and drive them away from the
previously all-white neighborhood through acts of violence and
property damage. Such conduct is squarely within the range of
actions prohibited by § 3617, whether or not any other section of
the Act was violated.*fn6 Thus, Stackhouse's motion to
reconsider with respect to § 3617 is granted.
At this time, both parties' motions for summary judgment on the
§ 3617 claim must be denied. It is clear that DeSitter did in
fact firebomb Stackhouse's car; on June 13, 1983, DeSitter was
convicted of arson under Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 38, § 20-1 for doing
so. However, Stackhouse has not yet demonstrated that DeSitter's
action was motivated by racial animus.*fn7 Stackhouse is
entitled to present his case to the trier of fact, and DeSitter
may explain his actions if he so desires.
Accordingly, Stackhouse's motion to reconsider is denied in
part and granted in part.*fn8 A status hearing will be held on
August 23, 1985, at 10:30 a.m. It is so ordered.