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NAACP Legal Defense Fund seeks to move forward with Cleveland Water discrimination lawsuit

Posted at 8:22 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-16 20:22:22-04

CLEVELAND — The NAACP Legal Defense Fund Monday asked a federal judge to allow a lawsuit alleging Cleveland Water discriminatesagainst customers in its billing practices to go forward.

In court documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the organization said Cleveland's "unfair shutoff and overfilling practices deprive" customers of their rights while its policy of "converting paid water bills into a lien on customer's property" has a "disparate impact on Black residents".

Last week, Cleveland Water halted water shutoffs for sanitation reasons amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

The lawsuit, filed in December, relied heavily on five years of reporting by the 5 On Your Side Investigative Team that first uncovered questionable billing practices.

Last month, the city sought to dismiss the case claiming the lawsuit "failed to state a claim".

In Monday's filing by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the response to the city's claim was rejected and pointed out Cleveland placed more than 11,000 water lines on properties between 2014 and 2018 that can "diminish home equity and heighten the risk of tax or mortgage foreclosure".

A federal judge is expected to rule in upcoming weeks whether the lawsuit can continue.

Meanwhile, new legislation was introduced in Ohio that would ban the practice of water tax liens on homes.

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