Kramarsky v. Stahl Mgt. Case Brief

Summary of Kramarsky v. Stahl Mgt., S. Ct. NY [1977]

Landlord’s Motives in Selecting or Removing Tenants

Relevant Facts: Ms. Judith Pierce, a Black, divorced, female, atty for the NYC Commission on Human Rights, applied for an apartment controlled and operated by Stahl Mgt. On her application she indicated her employer, salary and previous employment w/ Legal Services. The apartment building tenancy is composed of 30% blacks, and 60% rented to unmarried people. Ms. Pierce’s application was rejected. Mr. Stahl admitted that the information on the application indicated she “would be a source of trouble to me as a tenant."

Legal Issue(s): Whether the LL acted illegally in discriminating against lawyers, or whether he discriminated against Ms. Pierce as a divorced, black, single woman?

Court’s Holding: No, and No

Procedure: Comms’ filed Motion/Order to Show Cause seeking injunctive relief barring the rental of the specific apartment at issue until a final determination. Denied and TRO is vacated.

Law or Rule(s): It shall be unlawful discriminatory practice for the owner, lessee, or managing agent to refuse to sell, rent, lease, or otherwise to deny to or withhold from any person housing b/c of the race, creed, color, national origin, sex, or disability or marital status.

Court Rationale: Absent a supervening statutory proscription, a LL is free to do what he wishes with his property, and to rent or not to rent to any given person at his whim. He may decide not to rent to singer b/c they are too noisy, or not to rent to bald headed men b/c he has been told they give wild parties. He can bar his premises to the lowest strata of society, should he chose, or to the highest, if that be his personal desire. There is nothing illegal in a LL discriminating against lawyers as a group, or trying to keep out of his building intelligent persons, aware of their rights, who may give him trouble in the future. A LL has a “right to be selective and to reject a prospective tenant b/c of his or her failure to meet standard of acceptability other than those which concern themselves with one’s race or color or standards which are otherwise proscribed by statute."[Comm’n v Kennelly] The court is not persuaded that there is a reasonable likelihood that the charge of discrimination can be sustained.

Plaintiff’s Argument: Stahl Mgt unlawfully discriminated against the PL by refusing to rent an apartment to her b/c of her race, sex, and marital status.

Defendant’s Argument: The Pl’s application indicated that in the eyes of the LL PL would not be a desirable tenant, and the LL regularly rents to persons of color, varying gender, and unmarried people.

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