Speakers – NFHA Presents: Fair Housing Key Cases Update 2021

About this Program

This exclusive, invitation-only event will outline some of the most significant Fair Housing cases of the last two years and will feature prominent fair housing attorneys and advocates.

Below, please find full biographies of our Speakers


Opening Remarks

Host:

Vincent Curry has been a part of the fair housing movement since 1990.  Since 1995, he has served on the board of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA).  He is presently the first vice-chair of the NFHA board.   

He has given presentations for the US Department of Housing & Urban Development  (“Predatory Lending and Fair Housing Investigations and Cases,”  Cleveland, OH-August 8, 2008, “Fair Housing Enforcement & State Partnerships,” New Orleans, LA-June 2010), the National Fair Housing Alliance,  the Fund for an Open Society (“Today’s Forms of Housing Discrimination,” Cleveland, OH-November 8, 2002). In order to help children gain an understanding of fair housing issues, he has written fair housing storybooks for children.  One of the products, the Wolf Family, has been used by fair housing groups throughout the Midwest. 

 He has conducted over 2000 investigations.  Some of the investigations resulted in discrimination cases being filed in federal court.  Kennedy, et al.  v. City of  Zanesville, et al.(2004) involved governments denying public water service to a primarily African-American neighborhood. In 2008, a jury returned a $10.8 million dollar verdict against the city and the county.  In 2014, based upon evidence from an investigation conducted by his office, the United States filed a federal lawsuit against Kent State University for failing to accommodate a disabled student.  In 2016, the case settled for $145,000 

 Mr. Curry graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management degree.    


Case Presentations: “Disability and Sexual Orientation”

Host:

Cashauna Hill has served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center (formerly the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center) since 2015. Cashauna leads a team working to fulfill the organization’s mission to end discriminatory housing policies and practices through litigation and policy advocacy, along with fair housing trainings and foreclosure prevention counseling. Cashauna’s background includes successful resolution of fair housing and lending claims through administrative and court processes. She has been interviewed by CNN, NPR, and countless other national and local media outlets, in addition to having written extensively about housing segregation and civil rights. Cashauna has served as an adjunct professor at Tulane Law School and is a fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers. In 2017, she was the inaugural recipient of the Tulane Law School Public Interest Law Foundation’s Practitioner Service Award. Cashauna is a graduate of Spelman College and Tulane Law School, and an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Featuring:

Andrew Rozynski is a partner at Eisenberg & Baum, LLP and the co-director of the Eisenberg & Baum Law Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. As a discrimination litigation practitioner, he concentrates on the protection of rights for Deaf persons under local, state and federal laws. Mr. Rozynski strongly believes deaf or hard-of-hearing persons have a right to be free from discrimination based on their disability and a right to be provided effective auxiliary aids and services. He is committed to ensuring Deaf individuals get the protections they deserve to the fullest extent of the law. With three Deaf relatives, Mr. Rozynski is fluent in sign language, understands Deaf culture, and is uniquely equipped to help the Deaf community.

Mr. Rozynski has broad experience representing hundreds of Deaf plaintiffs in discrimination matters all over the country. Mr. Rozynski also handles cases of national importance and impact involving discrimination against Deaf persons in hospitals, businesses, government, courts, housing, prisons, colleges, and employment; including cases profiled in publications such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Huffington Post, USA Today, and Associated Press. Mr. Rozynski has also appeared on television related to his focus of Deaf rights. Mr. Rozynski enjoys speaking to groups about the legal rights of Deaf persons and welcomes any opportunity to do so. In addition to representing Deaf individuals, Mr. Rozynski has also represented Fair Housing organizations in matters involving Deaf discrimination. Mr. Rozynski’s representation of Fair Housing organizations includes large scale litigation involving systemic changes in housing practices related to Deaf individuals.

Mr. Rozynski is routinely admitted Pro Hac Vice in Federal Courts around the country. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Rozynski was the managing attorney of the Rozynski Law Firm, a law firm that serviced nearly exclusively deaf individuals

Diane L. Houk joined the firm as Counsel in 2009. Her practice focuses on representing individual and organizational plaintiffs in housing discrimination matters, including Broadway Triangle Community Coalition v. New York City; National Fair Housing Alliance v. Facebook, Inc; Fair Housing Justice Center v. M&T Bank; Kneer and Long Island Housing Services v. German American Settlement League, Inc., and L. C. v. LeFrak City. Prior to joining the firm, Diane co-founded the New York City-based Fair Housing Justice Center in 2004 and served as its first Executive Director until 2009. 

Ms. Houk previously worked at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in the Housing & Civil Enforcement Section from 1991 to 2004. During her tenure as a Senior Trial Attorney, Ms. Houk served as lead counsel in more than thirty housing discrimination cases filed by the United States in federal courts throughout the country. Her docket included systemic “pattern and practice” cases, as well as individual complaints referred by HUD, involving allegations of race, national origin, familial status, sex, and disability discrimination. These included rental discrimination cases based on “testing” investigations and local land use cases, such as United States v. Yonkers, NY; United States v. Parma, OH; United States v. City of Jacksonville, FL; and United States v. Pooler, GA

In 2000, Ms. Houk was named Special Litigation Counsel by the Division. In that role, she oversaw the development and litigation of race, national origin, and religious discrimination cases involving land use and zoning, redevelopment plans, building and occupancy codes, and affordable housing programs. 

Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Ms. Houk was in private practice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for seven years litigating civil rights cases alleging race, national origin, disability, sexual harassment, and sexual orientation discrimination in housing and employment. She served as General Counsel to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council and handled numerous cases utilizing evidence obtained from “fair housing testing.” 

Ms. Houk co-taught the Housing Discrimination Seminar at Columbia Law School from 2005 to 2014 and is a frequent speaker and lecturer on housing discrimination law. 

Liza Cristol-Deman

Liza Cristol-Deman is a partner at Brancart & Brancart, a Bay Area law firm that represents plaintiffs in housing discrimination cases in federal and state courts throughout the United States. She joined the firm in 1997 after graduating from Stanford Law School. Since then, she has successfully litigated hundreds of fair housing cases involving discrimination based on race, national origin, gender (including sexual harassment), sexual orientation, disability, familial status, and other protected characteristics.

In 2014, she was lead trial counsel in a certified class action involving violations of California’s residential security deposit statute. The jury found in favor of the class and awarded over $2.25 million in damages.

Liza has been honored by the State of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing with the “Civil Rights Hero Award,” and by local fair housing agencies throughout California. She is a frequent speaker at fair housing conferences, law schools, and state bar trainings, and served as one of the contributing authors of the Rutter Group deskbook entitled California Fair Housing and Public Accommodations (The Rutter Group 2014).

Joseph Wardenski is the principal attorney at Wardenski P.C., a civil rights litigation and consulting firm based in Brooklyn, NY. Before opening his firm in August 2021, Joe served as senior trial counsel at the New York State Office of the Attorney General, where he litigated multi-state challenges to unlawful federal regulations and actions during the Trump Administration. He was previously counsel at Relman Colfax PLLC and a trial attorney in the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. While at the Justice Department, Joe served as co-chair of the Civil Rights Division’s LGBTI Working Group. Joe received his A.B. from Princeton, Master in Public Policy from Harvard, and J.D. from Northwestern.


Case Presentations: “Harassment and Public Sector Defendants”

Host:

Diane L. Houk 

Please find Diane’s full bio above.

Featuring:

Tamar Hagler joined the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice more than 20 years ago, and currently is a Deputy Chief in the Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.  She supervises an active docket of investigations and litigation nationwide, enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in housing, land-use and zoning, and public accommodations. Ms. Hagler graduated from George Washington University Law School and received her B.A. in Law and Society, Criminal Justice, from the University of California at Santa Barbara. 

Liza Cristol-Deman

Please find Liza’s full bio above.

Reed Colfax is a Partner at Relman Colfax. Reed joined the firm in 2004. He practices primarily in civil rights litigation. He maintains a varied trial court practice that includes challenges to discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment throughout the United States. In his fair housing appellate practice, he has appeared and argued before the Second, Fourth, Eleventh, and D.C. Circuits and has drafted amicus briefs on a variety of fair housing issues on behalf of fair housing and civil rights advocacy organizations around the country. 

Reed was lead counsel in Kennedy v. City of Zanesville, a 67-plaintiff challenge to the City of Zanesville, Ohio, and Muskingum County’s decades-long refusal to provide water services to a predominantly African-American community. The case culminated in a $10.8 million verdict for the plaintiffs. He has also litigated cases on behalf of developers challenging municipal governments’ efforts to block affordable housing developments for discriminatory reasons. 

Prior to joining the firm, Reed was the project director of the Fair Housing Project at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs from 2000 to 2004, and a Skadden Fellow with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., from 1997 to 1999. While with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, Reed coordinated and litigated a number of legal challenges to discrimination by restaurants and hotels against African-American motorcyclists attending Black Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He was also lead counsel in 2922 Sherman Ave. v. District of Columbia, a Fair Housing Act case against the District of Columbia challenging its condemnation of multi-family apartment buildings in predominantly Latino neighborhoods of the city. 

Reed has been a frequent lecturer on a variety of issues related to housing and public accommodations discrimination before national, state, and local groups including the NAACP, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, and the National Fair Housing Alliance. Reed was named a Finalist for the 2009 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award by the Public Justice Foundation. 


Case Presentations: “Lending and Credit”

Host:


Maureen Yap is a Senior Counsel on NFHA’s Public Policy and Enforcement Teams, with a focus on fair lending, financial technology, mortgage policy, and housing finance reform. Maureen has worked in fair housing and fair lending since 1995. Prior roles include working on a range of civil rights and consumer protection issues at the Federal Reserve Board, including leading the Board’s Fair Lending Enforcement Section and founding the Unfair and Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAP) Section. Maureen was also an Associate at the law firms of Relman Colfax PLLC and Buckley LLP. 


Featuring:

Jean Zachariasiewicz is a litigator who focuses her practice on civil rights law, including fair housing, disability rights, wrongful convictions, police misconduct, and prisoner rights. She also has experience in constitutional litigation, class actions, and employment matters, including labor relations. Jean represents clients in state and federal trial and appellate courts as well as in front of administrative bodies. She works to ensure that her clients’ stories, experiences, and concerns are heard and respected, whether that client is a management organization or a prisoner. Prior to joining Brown Goldstein & Levy, Jean was a civil rights litigation associate at a Washington, D.C., law firm and served as the Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellow at the Public Justice Center, where she practiced appellate litigation in the areas of civil rights and poverty law. Jean clerked for Judge Myron H. Thompson at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and for Judge Fortunato Benavides at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. At Columbia Law School, Jean was a Hamilton Fellow with a three-year merit-based scholarship, and received academic honors as a Kent Scholar and Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. She also served as President of the Public Interest Law Foundation and the Notes & Submissions Editor of the Human Rights Law Review. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia and was an Echols Scholar in undergrad.

Lon D. Meltesen is the Regional Director for Region V Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Region V includes the States of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin,and Minnesota.Prior to coming to the Department in February 2020, Lon worked for the Illinois Department of Human Rights for twenty years, serving in a number of different capacities, including Manager of the Fair Housing Division, Chief Legal Counsel, and staff attorney. His prior work experience also included working as a Research Attorney for the Supreme Court of Illinois, and as a Staff Attorney for Prairie State Legal Services, in St. Charles, Illinois.Lon earned a law degree from DePaul University College of Law,graduating with honors and as a member of the Order of the Coif. Prior to obtaining his law degree, he attended Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude, earning a Bachelor of ArtsDegree in Political Science.

Amy Nelson is the Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI). The mission of the FHCCI is to ensure equal housing opportunities by eliminating housing discrimination through advocacy, enforcement, education and outreach. The FHCCI has a service area of 24 counties in Central Indiana reaching a population of over 2.5 million. The FHCCI works to prevent housing discrimination through its Advocacy, Education, Inclusive Communities, and Public Policy Programs. It conducts investigations to uncover violations of fair housing laws and files enforcement actions to stop identified discriminatory practices; offers a diverse array of education programs to build knowledge of fair housing laws, and works to strengthen fair housing policies at the local, state, and federal levels. 


Case Presentations: “Disparate Impact”

Host:

Reed Colfax

Please find Reed’s full bio above.

Featuring:

Sam Shapiro is a partner with the New York City-based civil rights law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, where he has been working since 2010. Sam has a broad litigation practice that includes both civil rights and commercial matters. He has represented individual and organizational plaintiffs in a variety of housing discrimination matters, including Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) v. Edgewater Park Owners CooperativeBentley v. DiPace; and National Fair Housing Alliance v. Redfin. On the commercial side, Sam has represented real estate owners and developers in lawsuits against lenders and local governments.  

Prior to joining the firm, Sam worked on promoting and protecting economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights, including the right to housing. He trained practitioners in ESC rights at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and documented ESC rights abuses caused by the exploitation of natural resources in the Republic of Congo

Salmun Kazerounian works with the Connecticut Fair Housing Center’s enforcement team to represent the victims of housing discrimination in administrative actions and in state and federal court. He received his B.A. from the University of Connecticut and his law degree from the University of Washington School of Law, where he was a Gates Public Service Law Scholar. Prior to joining the Center’s staff in 2012, Mr. Kazerounian was a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, where he specialized in representing rural low-income individuals and community organizations in civil cases. 

Ryan Downer manages and oversees CRC’s active litigation docket as Director of Litigation. In addition, Ryan works directly on cases challenging the criminalization of poverty, particularly in the areas of prosecutor misconduct and wealth-based pretrial detention. Ryan’s casework at CRC has included appearances in Singleton v. Cannizzaro, challenging the New Orleans’ district attorney’s use of fake subpoenas; Briggs v. Maricopa County, challenging blatant wealth discrimination in the County’s marijuana diversion program; and CRC’s efforts to protect detainees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ryan joined Civil Rights Corps after a decade of litigating civil rights cases at both Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC in Washington, D.C. and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF) in New York. At Relman, Ryan served as lead counsel on numerous fair housing, employment, and public accommodations matters, including two of the first cases to facially challenge blanket criminal records bans imposed by private housing providers (Fortune Society v. Sandcastle Towers; Equal Rights Center v. Mid-America Apartment Communities, Inc.). As lead counsel on his cases, Ryan managed every aspect of federal litigation, appearing in district courts across the country and arguing multiple appeals in the Fifth, Sixth, and Tenth Circuits. 

Ryan received his J.D. cum laude from New York University, where he was a Root Tilden Kern Scholar, an articles editor on the NYU Law Review, and a student-attorney in the Juvenile Defender Clinic. After graduation, he clerked for The Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Ryan received his undergraduate degree cum laude from Harvard College.

Evelyn Sanguinetti is a wife, working mother of three, and an attorney by trade. Sanguinetti was born in Hialeah, a neighborhood outside of Miami, Florida, to teenage parents – her mother a Cuban refugee, and her father an Ecuadorian immigrant. Growing up in extreme poverty, Sanguinetti relied on government assistance for food and housing. Her first language was Spanish. Although Sanguinetti struggled in school, her first break came when she earned a place in the prestigious New World School of the Arts, a magnet school for the arts in Miami. She then went on to attend Florida International University. 

Following graduation, Sanguinetti moved to Chicago to attend The John Marshall Law School (JMLS) where she developed an understanding and passion for the law and for Illinois. While in law school, Sanguinetti joined the JMLS Fair Housing Legal Clinic. She served as President of the Hispanic Student Association and the Fair Housing Association. Through her work at the Fair Housing Legal Clinic, she was able to practice law pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711, and represented victims of housing discrimination. While a student, she successfully handled the first ever case at the Chicago Commission on Human Relations that established a precedent for discrimination based on source of income. McCutchen v. Robinson, CCHR No. 95-I-1-84. She soon joined Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan’s office as an Assistant Attorney General where she fought to protect the people of the State of Illinois. Sanguinetti subsequently served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at JMLS and a Wheaton City Councilwoman. 

In 2014, Sanguinetti served as not only the first Latina Lieutenant Governor of the state but of the entire country. In her four years in office, Sanguinetti has focused on helping to improve the lives of all Illinoisans through the delivery of more efficient government, providing health care access to all regions of the state, quality educational opportunities to all residents regardless of income or location, and economic opportunity to small businesses throughout the state. From humble beginnings in Hialeah, Florida, to become the nation’s first Latina Lieutenant Governor, Sanguinetti has never forgotten where she came from or lost the desire to excel in whatever role comes her way 

Diane L. Houk

Please find Diane’s full bio above. 

Scott Chang is a Senior Counsel on NFHA’s Enforcement Team. He previously was Litigation Director at Housing Rights Center in Los Angeles, Counsel at Relman Colfax LLC, and was an attorney at Brancart & Brancart. He has litigated several significant fair housing cases including a case establishing that fair housing organizations have standing in the Ninth Circuit. 


Closing Remarks

John Petruszak is an Illinois licensed attorney who has worked in fair housing and civil rights professionally for the last thirty-two years.  He originally served as the SSHC staff attorney and Compliance Program Coordinator from 1981-85, practiced law privately from 1985-89, and then served as a senior staff attorney with the Illinois Department of Human Rights’ Legal Division from 1989-95.  In 1995, John returned to SSHC to become its Executive Director.  He has been a fair housing law presenter at seminars conducted by the John Marshall Law School, Illinois Association of Realtors, Illinois Municipal Human Rights Workers Association, Illinois Department of Human Rights, Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance and NAACP. 

In 1998, John testified before a U.S. House Budget Housing Subcommittee regarding evidence of FHA mortgage product steering by race in the Chicago area.  He represented SSHC at the September 2012 White House conference convened to provide community group input on resolutions for the foreclosure crisis.  He has served on the Board of Directors of the Washington DC-based National Fair Housing Alliance for the past eight years and was the Chairman of NFHA’s National Enforcement Advisory Committee for three years.  He has been a member of the board of Housing Choice Partners of Illinois, a mobility counseling organization assisting Chicago area Section 8 subsidized families since 1995.  He is a past President and current Director of the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance’s board. 



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