The Law School Authority

Marina Point v. Stephen Wolfson Case Brief

Summary of Marina Point v Stephen Wolfson, S. Ct. CA [1982]

Relevant Facts: PL is a privately owned apartment complex of 846 units located in LA. The master lease btwn the county and PL forbids discrimination r,c,s,no, rel, but is silent on other forms.  Dfs originally signed a 1 yr lease which contained a clause that no children under 18 could reside w/o written permission.  10 mos later Pl altered it policy, and sought to exclude all children hereinafter.  At the time 60 families w/ children resided.  After two additional yearly renewals, and the inclusion of a child Df were denied a subsequent lease, although 4 mos were extended.  The sole reason for non-renewal was the addition of a child to the family.  Two neighbors testified that the child’s presence was not annoying to them at all.  Two experts testified to their general knowledge that tenants w/ children cause more wear and tear on property.

Legal Issue(s): Whether a LL can lawfully deny tenancy or refuse to renew a lease to a family because the family includes a minor child?

Court’s Holding: No arbitrary discrimination is allowed in all business establishments.

Procedure: Trial ct ruled in favor for PL, stating children did not fall w/i a protected class.  Reversed by S. Ct.

Law or Rule(s): All persons w/i the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.

Court Rationale: The Unruh Act expanded the reach to include “all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”  Then in COX “i/d of particular bases of discrimination -color, race, religion, ancestry, and national origin – is illustrative rather than restrictive. Its language and its history compel the conclusion that the Leg intended to prohibit all arbitrary discrimination by business establishments.”  The Leg also included the term “sex,” prior to Cox. When the Leg amends a statute w/o altering portions of the provision that have previously been judicially construed, the Leg is presumed to have been aware of and to have acquiesced in the previous judicial construction. Our decisions teach that entrepreneurs must exclude those persons who are in fact disruptive, not a broad status based exclusionary policy depriving innocent indiv.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The policy of excluding children is reasonable and not arbitrary, the LL may seek to achieve its legitimate interest in a quiet and peaceful residential atmosphere by excluding ALL minors from its housing accommodations.

Defendant’s Argument: The exclusion of children as a policy for renting, leasing or renewal of a lease violates the Df’s statutory rights under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (California Code §51).

DISSENT: Two competing social policies and a just society including its law courts should try to accommodate and serve them both: Ending discrimination and the rights of those seeking to live in quiet, peaceful, and tranquil environments free of children.

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