SAVAGE et al v. LONG
ORDER APPROVING CONSENT DECREE AND DISMISSING CASE - The Consent Decree is lawful, fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Joint Motion for Stipulation of Dismissal Subject to Consent Decree is GRANTED AND ENTERED. Dkt. 15 . Pursuant to the Consent Decree, the Court retains jurisdiction over this civil action to enforce the terms of this Consent Decree. Dkt. 14 at 5 ( 13). Judgment consistent with this ruling shall issue separately (SEE ORDER FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION). Signed by Judge James Patrick Hanlon on 11/19/2020. (DWH)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FAIR HOUSING CENTER OF CENTRAL
ORDER APPROVING CONSENT DECREE AND DISMISSING CASE
The parties filed a Joint Motion for Stipulation of Dismissal Subject to
Consent Decree (the "Consent Decree") for approval and entry by the Court.
Because the Court has the authority to enter the Consent Decree and because
the Decree is lawful, fair, reasonable, and adequate, the motion is GRANTED.
On August 3, 2020, Abigail Savage filed a civil complaint alleging that
Henry Long violated the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, by
engaging in sexual harassment of Ms. Savage in connection with the ownership
and operation of a dwelling. Dkt. 1; dkt. 14.
On October 16, 2020, the parties filed the Consent Decree with the
Court. Dkt. 14. In the Consent Decree, Henry Long does not admit to any of
the allegations in the complaint, but agrees to:
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Pay the sum of forty-five thousand nine hundred dollars
($45,900.00) in the form of a check made payable to the AttorneyClient Trust Account of Brancart & Brancart within fourteen (14)
days of entry of this decree (¶ 1)
Retain and pay for the services of a property manager to handle all
day-to-day operations of his residential rental properties (¶ 4)
Be prohibited from having any contact or communication with any
current or potential tenants (¶ 5)
Attend and require all agents (including the property manager) to
attend Fair Housing training session offered by the Fair Housing
Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) or another HUD Qualified Fair
Housing Organization, within 60 days of issuance of this order,
and then again once per year for the duration of this decree (¶ 6)
Post a HUD Fair Housing poster (HUD Form 928) somewhere in
the dwelling within three days after a tenant vacates any of his
rental dwellings (¶ 7)
Require property manager to provide a copy of the HUD Fair
Housing booklet to all current tenants (¶ 8)
Adopt and enforce a written policy prohibiting discrimination by
any manager, employee, or agent engaged in the operation or
management of residential rental properties (¶ 9)
Revise all forms provided to tenants or prospective tenants to
include the following statement: "We are an equal housing
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opportunity provider. We do not discriminate on the basis of race,
color, religion, national origin, sex, familiar status, or disability."
Maintain records demonstrating compliance with each of these
equitable terms and make those records available for inspection by
the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana upon written request
with at least 14 days notice (¶ 11)
A consent decree is "a court order that embodies the terms agreed upon
by the parties as a compromise to litigation." United States v. Alshabkhoun,
277 F.3d 930, 934 (7th Cir. 2002). Since a consent decree is the exercise of
federal power—enforceable by contempt—a consent decree must (1) spring
from and serve to resolve a dispute within the court's subject matter
jurisdiction; (2) come within the general scope of the case made by the
pleadings; and (3) further the objectives of the law upon which the complaint
was based. Local No. 93, Int’l Ass’n of Firefighters, etc. v. Cleveland, 478 U.S.
501, 525 (1986).
The Consent Decree satisfies each of the three Local No. 93 factors.
First, Ms. Savages' complaint under the FHA falls within the Court's subjectmatter jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction). The
Consent Decree will thus resolve a dispute within the Court's jurisdiction.
Second, the complaint alleges that Henry Long engaged in a pattern or practice
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of housing discrimination based on sex. A remedy restricting or prohibiting
Mr. Long from engaging in any act or practice of sexual harassment and/or
discrimination based on sex in any aspect of residential rental agreement thus
comes within the general scope of the case. Dkt. 14. Third, the Consent
Decree will further the goals of the FHA by facilitating Mr. Long's compliance
with the FHA.
Even when a court has the predicate authority to enter a consent decree,
however, it should only do so if the "proposed decree is lawful, fair, reasonable,
and adequate." E.E.O.C. v. Hiram Walker & Sons, Inc., 768 F.2d 884, 889 (7th
Cir. 1985). In making this determination, the Court begins from "the federal
policy encouraging settlement." United States v. George A. Whiting Paper Co.,
644 F.3d 368, 372 (7th Cir. 2011). "Among the factors that a district court
should consider when it makes this 'fairness' determination are: a comparison
of the strengths of plaintiff's case versus the amount of the settlement offer; the
likely complexity, length, and expense of the litigation, the amount of
opposition to the settlement among affected parties; the opinion of competent
counsel; and, the stage of the proceedings and the amount of discovery already
undertaken at the time of the settlement." Gautreaux v. Pierce, 690 F.2d 616,
631 (7th Cir. 1982). "The district court may not deny approval of a consent
decree unless it is unfair, unreasonable, or inadequate" and should be "chary"
of so finding. Hiram Walker & Sons, Inc., 768 F.2d at 889–90.
The Settlement Agreement is lawful, fair, reasonable, and adequate. The
FHA is a remedial statute that promotes fair housing by eliminating
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discrimination. See 42 U.S.C. § 3601. The Consent Decree calls for Mr. Long
to take certain actions that are designed to facilitate his compliance with the
FHA. Therefore, the Consent Decree is consistent with the applicable statutes.
The Consent Decree is also fair. Both parties were represented by
competent counsel throughout the proceedings. Dkt. 4; dkt. 7; dkt. 8. The
parties do not indicate any opposition to the settlement, and the strength of
plaintiff's case is adequately represented by the agreement. Finally, while the
Consent Decree was filed early in the litigation, the case is fairly limited in
scope and would not benefit from copious amounts of discovery.
In addition, the Settlement Agreement is reasonable because it is tailored
to ending the policies and practices that allegedly led to discrimination, and to
assuring that no discrimination occurs in the future. It details specific policies
that address the allegations contained in the complaint and provides for
extensive review and reporting to assure any future problems are promptly
discovered and remedied.
The Consent Decree is lawful, fair, reasonable, and adequate. The Joint
Motion for Stipulation of Dismissal Subject to Consent Decree is GRANTED
AND ENTERED. Dkt. .
Pursuant to the Consent Decree, the Court retains jurisdiction over this
civil action to enforce the terms of this Consent Decree. Dkt. 14 at 5 (¶ 13).
Judgment consistent with this ruling shall issue separately.
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Liza Cristol Deman
BRANCART & BRANCART
Robert M. Kelso
KIGHTLINGER & GRAY, LLP (Indianapolis)
Megan Ann Van Pelt
KIGHTLINGER & GRAY LLP
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