ProJo: ACLU challenges R.I. high court rule restricting nonprofits
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Massachusetts fair housing advocacy group is arguing that a Rhode Island Supreme Court rule requiring that nonprofit organizations only represent indigent clients is preventing it from providing legal assistance to people who are facing housing discrimination.
The state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed suit against in U.S. District Court on behalf of SouthCoast Fair Housing, an organization with offices in New Bedford and Pawtucket whose stated mission is to promote fair equal, affordable housing for all, with an expertise in handling claims brought under the Fair Housing Act. The suit names Debra Saunders, the clerk of the state high court, as a defendant and asks that the court declare the rule unconstitutional and order the judiciary to issue the license.
According to the ACLU, the housing agency represents clients who are poor as well as those above the poverty line, some of whom complain they are being denied housing because they have young children.
In May 2017, SouthCoast applied to practice law in Rhode Island, but the application was rejected because the agency's mission is to serve all people who allege they are facing housing discrimination, not just those who are poor, according to the ACLU. That determination barred SouthCoast from representing clients in Rhode Island.