On October 22, 2003, the Lawyers’ Committee, Fletcher Farrington and the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro filed a complaint against the City of Port Wentworth, Georgia, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia on behalf of several individual plaintiffs, the class of similarly situated individuals, and the North Port Wentworth Citizens Council in Steele v. City of Port Wentworth, Georgia, CV-4-03-211. The complaint alleged that the City discriminatorily failed to provide water and sewer facilities to a predominantly African-American community in Port Wentworth, thereby violating the federal Fair Housing Act, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1871, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Georgia Fair Housing Act and Article I, § I, Paragraph II of the Constitution of the State of Georgia. The parties dismissed the Complaint without prejudice and Plaintiffs then re-filed the case on August 3, 2005, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia as CV-4-05-135.
On August 9, 2007, the City filed a motion for summary judgment. On September 4, 2007, the plaintiffs filed their opposition to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. On March 17, 2008, District Court Judge William T. Moore, Jr., issued an order granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and denying the plaintiffs’ request for a jury trial. On April 16, 2008, the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal of the decision to the Eleventh Circuit.
On July 23, 2009, the Lawyers’ Committee, after extensive mediation sessions with the City, finalized a settlement while the case was pending before the court of appeals. Under the settlement, the city will provide water and sewer services to homeowners in African-American communities not served in the past, provided that a significant number of homeowners wish to subscribe to the service. The city will attempt to secure funding for the expansion of services, and the city will waive previously required fees for homeowners. The city will also maintain roadside ditches in African-American communities to the same extent that it does in the rest of the city. After reaching this agreement, the court of appeals granted the parties’ joint motion to dismiss the appeal.
Click here to read the October 2003 complaint.
Click here to read the press release for the October 2003 complaint.
Click here to read the August 2005 complaint.
Click here to read the September 2007 Plaintiffs’ opposition to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
Click here to read the March 2008 order granting summary judgment.
Click here to read the press release for the July 2009 settlement.
Click here to read the MOU for the July 2009 settlement.