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Only hard-core courts buffs are sticking with me on this, my third post on the subject of the Seventh Circuit's en banc mezuzah ruling. But if you're hanging in, I recommend the oral arguments.
Judge Richard Posner: "Suppose the [Shoreline Towers Condominium Association] said to a Jew, a Jewish person, for example, 'Well, we sell to Jews because we have to, but after you move in you're going to be very uncomfortable here because we don’t like you and we’re going to make life unpleasant for you. But, you know, we'll certainly sell to you. We have to do that.' So in your view, that’s lawful?"
David Hartwell, attorney for the association: "A distinguishing factor here is that the association is never the seller..."
Judge Diane Wood: "Would you please answer Judge Posner's question...?"
Judge William Bauer: "Did you ever watch an Australian tag team?"
Attorney: "I have not, Judge Bauer."
Judge Bauer: "Well, you're in one."
What can be intriguing about oral arguments is how so much can seem to hang from so little. Here the considerable issue of housing discrimination appears to turn on the meaning of a coat rack in the hallway outside the Blochs' home. And late in the session, Judge Terence Evans, establishing his bona fides as he prefaces a question about the Torah, mentions that "Judge Posner and I have exchanged a couple of DVDs about this case — we both watch Curb Your Enthusiasm."
What's important about the en banc decision, which reversed a decision by a three-judge Seventh Circuit panel to dismiss the Bloch family's suit against the association, is that it clarifies the way the Seventh Circuit interprets the Federal Fair Housing Act. It now clearly holds sway "during tenancy and ownership," explains the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, not just during the search for a place to live. For the committee's statement on the decision, see my last post
The Chicago Lawyers' Committee joined with the National Lawyers' Committee and other fair housing groups in writing an amicus brief supporting the Blochs. Chief judge Frank Easterbrook — who, incidentally, wrote the majority opinion for the three-judge panel that the en banc court overruled — rejected the amicus brief as untimely. But here it is. You can read what the court didn't. The committee says that more than 30 percent of the housing discrimination complaints it receives concern "post-acquisition discrimination...a pervasive problem both in this Circuit and nationwide."
Click here to visit a Seventh Circuit site that offers links to — reading from top to bottom — oral arguments before the three-judge panel; Easterbrook's opinion for that panel dismissing the Bloch suit, and Wood's dissent; oral arguments before the court sitting en banc; and the November 13 holding of that court.