Agency Will Stop Treating Political Speech as Fair-Housing Violation

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has agreed to stop investigating citizens on the theory that their political expression in and of itself constitutes a potential violation of laws against housing discrimination. The concession came in a settlement with Julie Waltz, whom it had dragged through an investigation for publicly opposing the placement of subsidized group homes in and near her Norco, Calif. residence. A news release from the Center for Individual Rights:

During the year-long investigation, state investigators told Waltz that her speech violated state fair housing laws, requested that she refrain from her speech activities, and threatened her with prosecution. An investigator also told her that the investigation would end if she removed signs from her yard objecting to the next-door group home as well as signs posted by other people in her neighborhood. Waltz declined to remove the signs. …

Waltz was represented by the Los Angeles, CA firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, which donated its time pro bono and the Center for Individual Rights.

When it comes to trampling the First Amendment, California fair housing officials are serial offenders: in 2000 and again in 2006, CIR says, the Ninth Circuit handed down rulings restraining them from similar practices.