Narendra Ghosh and Paul Smith have submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice in The Royal Oak Concerned Citizens Association et. al. v. Brunswick County. The Plaintiffs are represented in part by the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
The Plaintiffs advocate the interests of the residents of Royal Oak, a historically African American community in majority-white Brunswick County. Plaintiffs allege in part that Brunswick County has engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against their community because of its racial composition. Royal Oak has long been denied sewer and water access and has disproportionately born the burden of the county's undesirable land uses, including the longstanding operation of a landfill and the relocation of an animal shelter to the community from a predominantly white neighborhood. Brunswick County recently voted to rezone two properties within the community for industrial use, with express intent to expand the existing landfill. As a result of Brunswick County's actions, the Plaintiffs allege that the value of the Royal Oak residents' land has declined, that residents have been forced to undertake great expense to secure drinkable water, and that some homes have been rendered uninhabitable. Plaintiffs sued the county on a number of grounds. On September 7, 2012, the trial court denied the majority of Brunswick County's motion to dismiss. The County appealed this order.
Narendra and Paul's brief addressed the viability of the Plaintiffs' claims under the North Carolina Fair Housing Act, which in part prohibits local governments from making land use decisions that have the intent or effect of discriminating against residents on the basis of their race. Defendant argued that Plaintiffs' claims under the Act were not viable because they had not first elected to pursue administrative relief, and because the County had yet to obtain a final permit for the landfill expansion. The amicus brief discusses the extent to which imposing an administrative exhaustion requirement on claims under the North Carolina Fair Housing Act would defeat the rights the Act seeks to create. It also argues that it would be appropriate for the court to enjoin the expansion of the landfill at this time and that, regardless, the justiciability of the entire controversy does not turn on the availability of that one form of relief.
For more information, see this news report discussing the controversy and this op-ed from the News & Observer.