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Suit over Ads Allowed by Supreme Court

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Suit over Ads Allowed by Supreme Court

Article excerpt

Suit over ads allowed by Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to kill a fair-housing lawsuit against the New York Times stemming from real estate advertisements showing only white models posing as homeowners.

The justices, without comment, let stand ruling that force the newspaper to defend itself in a jury trial against allegations it violated a federal anti-bias law.

Lawyers for the Times told the high court, among other things, that applying the law to the newspaper in such a way violates free-speech rights.

The Times "does not maintain that newspapers are - or that they constitutionally must be - exempt from proscriptions of the Fair Housing Act," the appeal said.

It added: "Newspapers do not have the right to publish real estate advertisements that are discriminatory on their face, or to set policies or engage in practices that reveal discriminatory preferences."

However, the appeal said lower court rulings in this case went beyond forbidding such conduct. The rulings make newspapers liable for any group of ads a jury finds to show too few minorities.

Four blacks and the Open Housing Center, a not-for-profit group that seeks to eliminate racial discrimination in housing, sued the Times in 1989.

The lawsuit alleged that for 20 years the newspaper had published ads "featuring thousands of human models of whom virtually none was black."

U.S. District Judge Charles Haight Jr. refused to throw out the suit, and the 2nd U. …

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