I have a lawsuit for violations of the Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988, a Civil Rights Violation, etc; In a court hearing the defendant filed for a motion to dismiss while my Attorney's filed a...

I have a lawsuit for violations of the Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988, a Civil Rights Violation, etc; In a court hearing the defendant filed for a motion to dismiss while my Attorney's filed a motion for a preliminary injunction so that my housing rent would be paid by the Defendant who stopped paying the rents and had utilities cut off. The rent was resumed and the utilities were cut back on due to court hearings. This case has gone on for nearly 6 months. In the most recent court hearing the Judge dismissed the motion to dismiss of the Defendants and my Attorneys and I were granted the preliminary injunction. I am now interested in a jury trial after the Defendant files an answer to my complaint. At the most current hearing, the Defendant admitted their violations of the Fair Housing Act by the answers that was given to the questions by my Attorneys.

The answers were completely contradictory from one minute to another such as when my Attorney asked the defendant if she had gotten the request for my reasonable accommodation, she stated that she had not gotten the request even though she is aware that I have return receipts were I mailed the request by certified return postage and the defendant's company signed for the mail. The defendant also later stated that the only way that she got the request was by another party who the request had to be mailed to. The other party was the management of the housing complex in which I live. the Defendant violated the FHAA by excluding my mentally ill son from housing based on his disability, discriminating against him and me as one associated with him. The Defendant then attempted for nearly 5 months to get me to sign into another program for single individuals even though I had signed the rules of the program that I was a participant in which is for "Families" as when I applied for the housing, I applied for both the son and myself. When the defendant was reminded by me of what I signed to at the orientation and at a lease signing day, and after another person of the same company sent me an e-mail that the son could not be added top live with me in a federally funded apartment(Upscale) the main defendant began the attempts to get me to sign new rules. I was threatened that if I did not sign such rules that my rent would be terminated and utilities would be cut off. This case has gotten extremely large and has involved 6 Attorneys, three of which are mine. I now am wondering if I should take jury trial (or since my case is pretty cut and dry as we have all of the facts, and also and again the contradictory and untrue statements by the Defendant, who just HUNG herself totally in the hearing) or just have a Judge in our lawsuit that is scheduled in December of 2015. Any feedback? I am researching for myself on the disadvantages and advantages of a Jury Trial as well as to what my Attorneys suggest. I just like to always know for myself. Thanks.

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am a retired attorney, and I am going to give only general commentary based on the information you have provided, since it is unlikely that I have ever been admitted to practice in your circuit or your state. It is up to you and your attorneys to decide how to proceed. In a jury trial, there are three areas to consider: the facts, the law, and the emotional impact of the situation. In a bench trial, there are only two: the facts and the law. In a situation in which the facts and the law are complex and the emotional impact could go for or against the plaintiff, a bench trial might be the better option.

The facts in your case are facts that you find straightforward because you have been living with them for a very long time. Your attorney will present as coherent a narrative as he or she possibly can, certainly one that a judge can follow, but one that a jury might find confusing, for example, the facts around notice or the attempts to have you sign off on different rules.  

Your case involves not only the fair housing statute, but also labyrinthine federal regulations. If you have ever had a look at these, you know they are not so easily understood.  A judge will be comfortable with these, while a jury will not.  Jurors' eyes start to glaze over when they are called upon to interpret these, even with very good instructions from the judge.

The emotional impact of your case could fall two ways.  Unfortunately, we live in a time in which mental illness is still stigmatized, and some people exhibit extreme biases against anyone receiving government benefits. That is not how I would like it to be, but it is a reality, and a jury might very well contain members who harbor these attitudes. On the other hand, if your situation is reprehensible enough, if you are perceived as a real victim, the jury could very well be swayed in your direction.  Again, this could go either way.

Talk to your attorneys, who know the judges and who have some sense of the jury pools in your area.  They are the best people to guide you in making this decision.  I certainly wish you the best of luck with this.