Clipping Sterling's Wings: B-Ball Owner Settles Housing Suit

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 25, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

L.A. Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling and wife Rochelle have more these days to concern them than the Clipper's record (last year, 19-63). Recent news reports show the pair has settled with the U.S. Justice Department in a housing discrimination suit for what is being called the largest settlement ever in a case regarding apartment rentals. According to the Proposed Consent Order, which is awaiting the approval of U.S. Dist. Ct. Judge Dale S. Fischer, the Sterlings will pay into a fund for people alleging harm from discrimination in the amount of $2.625 million. The Sterlings will also pay a $100,000 penalty to the government.

The Justice Department suit claims violations of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. In order to promote equal access to housing, the act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race and national origin, sex, religion, family status, disability, and more. Justice initiated the suit against the Sterlings in 2006 for a pattern of renting that, they say, favored Korean and Korean American tenants and sought to exclude African Americans, Latinos and that most reviled group, people with children.

The LA Times reports that at trial, an expert would have been prepared to testify that based on demographics in the Korea Town area of Los Angeles, the Sterlings rented to far fewer African Americans and Hispanics than would have been expected. In court papers, the government also claims the Sterlings made statements to the effect that African Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants. The Sterlings own about 120 apartment buildings with 5,000 units in the LA area.

For their part, the Sterlings say they are settling merely to avoid the more costly litigation that would have ensued. Lawyer Bob Platt, long time counselor to the couple says, "my clients vehemently and unequivocally deny that anyone was discriminated against."

But this is not the first suit of this kind to plague the Sterlings. The Nation reports that in 2005, Donald Sterling settled another housing discrimination suit brought against him by the Housing Rights Center. That settlement included $5 million in legal fees and an undisclosed settlement sum.

The current proposed settlement will also resolve two additional private suits brought by former tenants of the Sterlings alleging racial discrimination. Looks like the Sterlings have a 0 and 2 record for housing suits.

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