Black Couple's Discrimination Lawsuit Against Hi-Rise Condos in Katy, Texas Dismissed With Prejudice

Clarence Walker
judge david hittner. Public domain photo.

Judge David Hittner. Public domain photo.

A federal court judge recently dismissed a racial discrimination lawsuit brought forth by three Black real estate investors in Houston. The investors claimed they were unfairly denied the opportunity to purchase condominiums in a new community development for Asians.

The civil lawsuit, which targeted the RE/MAX franchise network and other parties, was dismissed on February 27 by U.S. District Judge David Hittner.

The ruling was based on the insufficiency of legal grounds under the federal Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit, filed in September 2022 by James Ra-Amari, Misty Ra-Amari, and Rosemary Afful, alleged that Houston-based realtor Josie Lin and property managers, including RE/MAX, colluded to obstruct their purchase of three new units at Grand West Condominiums in Katy, a prosperous area located on I-10 West in one of Houston's Suburbs in 'Harris County,' Texas.

Judge David 'Hitman' Hittner Dismissed Lawsuit With Prejudice

Hittner dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, or "without the option to refile," suggesting the plaintiffs cannot appeal the ruling to a higher court based solely on the merits of the case.

The lawsuit against the company had sought undisclosed punitive damages for emotional distress while claiming violations of fair housing laws, which prohibit discrimination in the "sale or rental of a dwelling."

James & Misty Ra-Amari Recently Lost Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Based On Attorney Oversight Against Grand West Condominiums Photo Courtesy: Attorney Justin Moore

James & Misty Ra-Amari Recently Lost Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Based On Attorney Oversight Against Grand West Condominiums Photo Courtesy: Attorney Justin Moore

Ruling Not Based on Discrimination

The judge's ruling specifically focused on whether the Fair Housing Act had been violated prohibiting discrimination rather than if the Black investors had faced outright racism when they tried to buy the property that was marketed specifically to Asian residents.

During the legal action the family cited the agent's comment about not getting along well and marketing the condos towards Asian communities as evidence of discrimination.

Attorneys for the agent and property company argued that a condo is a "dwelling" only for occupiers, and the family identified as investors, not occupants.

The defendants in the lawsuit also noted the family never confirmed making an offer in court documents. The plaintiffs' lawyer missed the reply deadline after deleting the filing email, leading Judge David Hittner to side with the defendant.

"This case highlights the ongoing challenges and importance of the Fair Housing Act," said Justin Moore, who represented the plaintiffs, in a written statement. He indicated that he and the plaintiffs were "considering all available legal avenues for our next steps."

Moore characterized the court's decision as "based on procedural grounds" and said it did not take into consideration "video proof of our clients making genuine offers to purchase the condominiums."

Attorney Moore also disagreed with the interpretation that the Fair Housing Act did not apply to investors.

"Our stance is that real estate investment has historically been a pathway for many Americans to build wealth, and our clients' endeavors align with this tradition," he said. "Property at its essence is an investment ... Your home is an investment whether you live in it or not."

The defendant's lawyer declined to comment, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Plaintiffs Interest in Grand West Condominiums

Grand West Condos recently Became the Center of A Racial Discrimination Lawsuit. Photo by Grand West Condos

Grand West Condos recently Became the Center of A Racial Discrimination Lawsuit. Photo by Grand West Condos

According to an interview with the Houston Chronicle in 2022 - after James Ra-Amari initiated legal action; Himself, along with his wife, Misty Ra-Amari, and Misty's sister, Rosemary Afful, showed interest in the Grand West Condominiums, situated as the inaugural condominium establishment in the vicinity of Katy Asian Town and the University of Houston at Katy.

Their intention was to purchase three units, with James expressing plans to rent out two of them and personally occupy the third. Recordings shared by Moore with the Chronicle captured instances where a voice off-camera articulated the decision to not sell to the Ra-Amaris, citing a preference towards the senior demographic, specifically those aged 55 and above.

When James asked, "So you refuse to sell to us because we're not 55 or older?" she responded, "No, no, no, it's not that. I have a gut instinct that tells me we probably won't be able to get along with each other well."

When the gentleman said, "The price is fine. We would like to purchase it" and that he was concerned about the assumptions she was making about them, she replied that she was concerned she would have a confrontation with them if they lived in the building.

Flyer Advertised Luxury Condos 'For Houston Area Chinese and Asian Communities'

The lawsuit included a summary and some quotes from the recordings. Court documents also pointed to a flyer advertising the building as an "option for Chinese and Asian communities in Houston" where people could live "a safe and simple Asian life" to make the argument that the refusal was made on the basis of race.

The family sued agent Cheng Ching "Josie" Lin, two brokerages, and the condo's management association and owner for violating the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits race-based housing discrimination.

Lin expressed concerns about her relationship with the family due to derogatory comments about her English skills.

She clarified that marketing language referring to Katy Asian Town was taken out of context. Lin, a Taiwanese Texan, highlighted her Penn State University experience raising children and aiming to help immigrants adapt and achieve the American dream on her real estate agent site.

The majority of the defendants in the case were dismissed by the judge on the grounds that the family did not demonstrate their connection to Lin or that she was acting on their behalf.

Additional Defendants Dismissed From Lawsuit

Following the dismissal of the other defendants, Lin and the property management group, whom she was representing at the time of the alleged incident, motioned for the entire case to be dismissed.

Their argument rested on the claim that the family, being investors, were not covered by the Fair Housing Act. Moreover, they contended that the family failed to provide evidence of a sincere offer to purchase the condominiums.

Lin and the property management group contended that the Fair Housing Act's definition of a discriminatory housing practice, which pertains to discriminating in the "sale or rental of a dwelling," would only be applicable in this case if Ra-Amaris and Afful, referred to as investors in the court documents, had intentions to live in the units.

The lawsuit alleged that Afful was seeking a new residence for herself and her 3-year-old daughter; however, in her written statement, Afful clarified, "I am a real estate investor who was considering the acquisition of a condominium at the Grand West Condominiums."

The Fair Housing Act also prohibits the refusal to sell a dwelling "after the making of a bona fide offer," and the defendants argued that the lawsuit did not include any description of the family making an offer, news Media outlets reported.

Did Plaintiffs Lose Lawsuit Due to Oversight By Their Attorney?

It appears that Moore, the attorney for the family, neglected to submit a formal reply to either of the aforementioned points raised within the specified timeframe.

A month has passed after the submission deadline. But Mr. Moore detailed his objections and response in a formal motion seeking authorization to file belatedly, citing that he had inadvertently overlooked and deleted the email notification for filing.

Judge Hittner dismissed this request and predominantly sided with the defendants' assertion that the plaintiffs had not sufficiently demonstrated the merits of their case. Despite the rejection of Mr. Moore's plea to file his objections and response beyond the deadline, he acknowledged that the judge's ruling did address the contentions he presented in that submission.

The Following information Was Reported By Houston Chronicle: Update (March 1, 4:15 p.m.): This story has been updated to include a statement from the plaintiffs' attorney and that Moore included his objections and response to the defendants' arguments when he asked permission to file past the deadline.

Reporter CJ WAlker can be reached at [email protected]

By Clarence Walker
Clarence Walker Jr. is a Houston-based Senior Reporter and Associate Editor for HoustonNewsToday. Houston Watch | Substack Politics, Policy, Political News - POLITICO Houston Public Media – Houston Public Media is a non-profit organization broadcasting through a multi-media platform to deliver content with a focus Community Impact | News Associated Press News: Breaking News, Latest Headlines and Videos | AP News Business News Daily: Small Business Solutions & Inspiration -

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