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On December 5, 2023, United States District Court Central District Of Illinois issued a mostly favorable order in the years-long Fair Housing case Kennedy Hunt P.C. and the United States have jointly been fighting against the City of Springfield, Illinois. The court is now requiring the City to pay $61,982,50 in civil penalties to the Department of Justice, and $53,654.50 in prejudgment interest to our client, Individual Advocacy Group. 

According to the lawsuit, the City of Springfield used unlawful zoning practices to attempt to close a home where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities lived. Kennedy Hunt P.C. represents the Individual Advocacy Group and Mary B. Valencia, sister and guardian of Alan Dennis, one of the residents.

Per the new order from the court:

The Court enters a civil penalty of $61,982.50 against the City, enters injunctive relief prohibiting enforcement of the spacing rule, awards [$53,654.50] prejudgment interest on portions of the jury’s verdict, sets a briefing schedule for attorneys’ fees, and directs a final judgment be entered. 

In 2014, three men with severe disabilities moved into a home in Springfield, Illinois in accordance with the law. They were provided support by our client, Individual Advocacy Group, Inc. In 2016 the City of Springfield tried to shut the home down because it claimed the home was too near another small home where individuals with disabilities lived. The City refused to grant our clients the zoning permit they needed to stay open and refused to grant our clients’ request for a reasonable accommodation. By doing so, the City was in clear violation of the Fair Housing Act. 

Kennedy Hunt P.C. filed suit  – Valencia, et al. v. City of Springfield – in December 2016. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice joined the case in November 2017. In 2020, a federal judge granted partial summary judgement in the case and agreed the City of Springfield violated the Fair Housing Act. In July 2022, a federal jury rendered a verdict for $293,000 in compensatory damages against the City of Springfield to victims: $162,000 to the residents of the home and their guardians and $131,000 in compensatory damages to Individual Advocacy Group. 

Now, in addition to the monetary awards, the injunctive relief ordered by the judge will prohibit the City from using this rule to prevent two family care residences or group community residences from being located within 600 feet of each other – that threatened residents of these groups of eviction.

Many motions are still pending in this case. For more information, contact managing partner Sarah Jane Hunt at sarahjane@kennedyhuntlaw.com. If you or someone you know has been a victim of housing discrimination, our skilled attorneys at Kennedy Hunt, P.C. may be able to help you. Fill out a questionnaire so we can understand your claim.