Hamer v. Darien Planning and Zoning Commission
An even-handedly applied, facially neutral law should be subjected to strict scrutiny if: 1.) the law has a disproportionate impact on race, national origin, alienage, gender or illegitimacy; and 2.) a discriminatory purpose motivated officials. Allegedly, when the plaintiffs sought permission from the defendant zoning commission, to develop affordable housing units, residents who lived near the proposed project conspired with the zoning commission and individual defendant and filed a complaint that lacked merit in Connecticut Superior Court. Unable to develop the property as a result of the litigation, the plaintiffs lost the property in a foreclosure. The plaintiffs filed suit in District Court, alleging discrimination on the basis of race, in violation of the 14th Amendment, because the defendants allegedly opposed the proposal as part of an attempt to exclude African-Americans from entering the community. The municipality has 104 African-American residents and 19,508 Caucasian residents. In a 2008 meeting, the individual defendant allegedly characterized affordable housing as a "virus." At a 2010 meeting, the defendant allegedly referred to nearby communities that have much higher percentages of minorities and said, "Our objective is to preserve the character of our town." The plaintiffs allege that the defendants conspired to exclude African-Americans. The defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The plaintiffs' complaint alleges the defendants discriminate against "all persons and entities attempting to construct affordable housing." Racial discrimination constitutes an example of suspect classification that merits strict scrutiny. "To establish that an even-handedly applied, facially neutral law should be subjected to the strict scrutiny of a court, the challenger normally must show that 1.) the law has such a disproportionate impact on one of several groups (i.e. race, national origin, alienage, gender or illegitimacy) that we may view the law as if it created such a classification on its face, and 2.) a discriminatory purpose motivated the actions of the government officials," pursuant to Orange Lake Associates Inc. v. Kirkpatrick, a 1994 decision of the 2nd Circuit. The plaintiffs adequately allege a discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor. The court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the equal-protection claim.