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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
JACKSON DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff,

v.

A. WADDELL NEJAM, ALICE PERRY

and ANN B. SUMRALL,

Defendants.

_________________________________

COMPLAINT

The United States of America alleges:

  1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce the provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (the Fair Housing Act), as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.

  2. This court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. §1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614.

  3. Defendant A. Waddell Nejam owns and/or manages rental properties, including residential houses and multi-family townhouses and apartment buildings, located in Hinds County in the Southern District of Mississippi. Defendant Nejam conducts this business under the name A. Waddell Nejam Properties (hereinafter "Nejam Properties"). Among the Nejam Properties are residential, rental properties located at 786 Belhaven Street, 948 Bellvue Place, 963 Bellvue Place 1043 Carlisle Street, 801 Euclid Street, 960 Morningside Street and 1063 Poplar Street, all in Jackson, Mississippi.

  4. Defendant Alice Perry, at a time pertinent to this case, was a leasing agent for Nejam Properties. Her responsibilities included responding to inquiries about the availability of apartments, disseminating rental information, showing apartments, receiving applications and, in some instances, approving applicants for the rental of apartments or townhouses.

  5. Defendant Ann B. Sumrall, at a time pertinent to this case, was a leasing agent for Nejam Properties. Her responsibilities included responding to inquiries about the availability of apartments, disseminating rental information, showing apartments, receiving applications and, in some instances, approving applicants for the rental of apartments or townhouses.

  6. The properties owned and/or managed by the Defendant A. Waddell Nejam are dwellings within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602 (b).

  7. The United States, through its Department of Justice, has investigated the rental policies and practices followed at Nejam Properties to evaluate compliance with the Fair Housing Act. In 1996 and 1997, as part of this investigation, the United States conducted a series of "tests" to compare the information, services and treatment afforded by Defendants to different types of prospective renters. Testers are persons who, without intending to rent an apartment, gather information about rental housing in order to help determine whether a housing provider is engaging in discriminatory practices.

  8. These "tests" for compliance with the Fair Housing Act revealed that African Americans seeking housing from Defendants herein were subjected to treatment which was different from that afforded to Caucasian persons. Among those difference were that Caucasian persons were informed about the availability of current or upcoming vacancies while African Americans were told there were no vacancies or were offered incomplete information about current or future openings.

  9. Defendants have engaged in discrimination against persons on the basis of race or color in the rental of dwellings in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Defendants have discriminated, among other ways, by:

    1. Refusing to rent, or refusing to negotiate for the rental, or otherwise making unavailable or denying dwellings at Nejam Properties because of the race or color of the prospective tenant in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a); and

    2. Imposing different terms, conditions or privileges in the rental of dwellings at Nejam Properties because of race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b);

    3. Representing to persons, because of race or color, that dwellings at Nejam Properties were not available for inspection or rental when such dwellings were in fact so available, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).

  10. The conduct of the Defendants described above constitutes:

    1. A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619; and

    2. A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, which denial raises an issue of general public importance.

  11. There may be persons who have been the victims of Defendants' discriminatory housing practices and may have suffered injuries as a result of Defendants' conduct described above. Any such persons are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).

  12. Defendants' conduct described above was intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of others.

WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an order that:

  1. Declares that Defendants' policies and practices, as alleged herein, violate the Fair Housing Act;

  2. Enjoins Defendants, their officers, employees, and agents, successors and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from:

    1. Discriminating because of race or color against any person in any aspect of the rental of a dwelling;

    2. Failing or refusing to notify the public that dwellings owned or operated by Defendants are available to all persons on a nondiscriminatory basis;

    3. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of Defendants' unlawful practices to the position they would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct; and

    4. Failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to prevent the recurrence of any discriminatory conduct in the future, and failing or refusing to eliminate, to the greatest extent practicable, the effects of the Defendants' unlawful housing practices.

  3. Awards such damages as would fully compensate each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices for their injuries resulting from Defendants' conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B);

  4. Awards punitive damages to each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices because of the intentional and willful nature of Defendants' conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and

  5. Assesses a civil penalty against Defendants in the maximum amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C), in order to vindicate the public interest.

The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require

JANET RENO
Attorney General

BILL LANN LEE
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

JOAN A. MAGAGNA
Acting Chief
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division

JOSEPH D. RICH
Deputy Chief
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section

THOMAS J. KEARY
Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
P.O. Box 65998
Washington, D.C. 20035-5998
(202) 514-4752

BRAD PIGOTT
United States Attorney
Southern District of Mississippi

MITZI DEASE PAIGE
Assistant United States Attorney
188 East Capitol Street
Suite 500
Jackson, Mississippi 39201
973-2840

General Information Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
 
Leadership
Steven H. Rosenbaum
Chief
Contact
Housing & Civil
Enforcement Section
(202) 514-4713
TTY - 202-305-1882
FAX - (202) 514-1116
To Report an Incident of Housing Discrimination:
1-800-896-7743
Mailing Contact
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, NWB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Email: fairhousing@usdoj.gov

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