HOPE appears before the Third District Court of Appeal (DCA) for the State of Florida
In addition to hosting Fair Housing Month events in April 2016, HOPE appeared before the Third District Court of Appeal (DCA) for the State of Florida. The issue before the court was whether the Florida Fair Housing Act requires exhaustion of administrative remedies with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) before an individual can file a complaint in state court. On behalf of HOPE, attorney Matthew Dietz argued that victims of housing discrimination have the choice to file in an administrative tribunal or go directly to court. Also participating in oral argument as amicus curiae (friend of the court) was Cheyanne Costilla, General Counsel for FCHR, who also argued against the administrative exhaustion requirement. The Housing Umbrella Group of Florida Legal Services, Inc. filed an amicus curiae brief in support of HOPE, but did not present oral argument. If the court rules in our favor, it will reject a 2004 Fourth DCA decision that wrongfully decided that exhaustion of administrative remedies is required.
Being required to try every administrative solution before directly filing in court unnecessarily and harmfully delays justice for many injured parties. Victims of housing discrimination need immediate access to relief, particularly when the roof over their heads or their health and safety are threatened by discriminatory practices. A tenant facing a discriminatory eviction needs to be able to raise fair housing counterclaims in the eviction action rather than being forced to bring claims elsewhere. A home buyer denied approval by a homeowner association because of their national origin may need access to the courts so they do not lose the home they intend to purchase. The denial of an essential live-in aide for a person with a disability can put their health, safety, or life at risk.
We pray for a favorable ruling by summer’s end. Until then, we continue to work with the Florida Commission on Human Relations on amending the Florida Fair Housing Act to make it clear on its face that a victim of housing discrimination has the choice to go directly into state court with their claim(s) under the Florida Fair Housing Act.
Fair Housing attorneys and advocates representing HOPE, Disability Independence Group (DIG), Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. (LSGMI), and the Florida Justice Institute (FJI) gathered outside of the court following oral argument. Pictured left to right are Matthew Tisdol (HOPE), Michelle Wilson (FCHR), Cheyanne Costilla, Esq. (FCHR), Matthew Dietz, Esq. (DIG), Keenya Robertson, Esq. (HOPE), Lisa Goldstein, Esq. (DIG), Jeff Hearne (LSGMI), Danny Howe (HOPE), and Randall Berg, Esq. (FJI). The HOPE Fair Housing Center family extends its gratitude to all for their support!
-Keenya J. Robertson, Esq.