Tuesday, February 15, 2005
C.A. Rejects Man’s Discrimination Challenge to Shelters for Women
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
This district’s Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s dismissal of a civil rights lawsuit against 10 domestic violence shelters by a man who posed as a victim and was turned down for being male.
Eldon Blumhorst, a member of the National Coalition of Free Men, filed the suit in March 2003 against the Southern California shelters, alleging he was a victim of discrimination.
He claimed the shelters, which receive financial assistance from the state, violated Government Code Sec. 11135, which bans discrimination by any state-funded agency on the basis of race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, color or disability.
In December 2002, according to his suit, Blumhorst posed as a domestic violence victim and called the shelters requesting help. He was refused, prompting a lawsuit in which he called himself a civil rights “tester.”
In his suit, Blumhorst said he previously was battered by an ex-wife and walks with a limp because she threw a piece of furniture at him. He claims he sought help at the time from social service organizations, but was refused service because he is a man.
In an opinion by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sandy Kriegler, sitting on assignment in Div. Five, the court said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jon M. Mayeda correctly ruled that Blumhorst had no standing in the case. Kriegler was named Thursday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fill a Div. Five vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Margaret Grignon.
The plaintiff alleged “he had suffered domestic violence in the past, not at the time he made the test calls to shelters,” Kriegler wrote. “Thus, he does not allege he was a victim of the shelters’ alleged unlawful, discriminatory practices. Accordingly, Blumhorst lacks standing in that he was not personally aggrieved.”
Kriegler said Sec. 11135 permits suits only by injured parties, rejecting Blumhorst’s contention that the Legislature intended the standing under the law to be given a broad interpretation.
“While the Legislature did create a private cause of action for civil rights discrimination by the amendments to section 11139, it did not in relax traditional standing requirements. There is nothing in the plain language of sections 11135 and 11139, as amended, or in the legislative history, to warrant deviation from the rule that standing requires a plaintiff to allege that he or she was personally damaged.”
Kriegler also rebuffed Blumhorst’s argument that suits in the public interest under the two sections should be the beneficiaries of “relaxed” standing rules.
“Blumhorst sued as an individual, not on behalf of an organization of victims of unlawful discrimination,” the judge explained, adding that it “would be error to apply a relaxed standing rule on the theory Blumhorst’s complaint fell under the relaxed rules of public interest litigation.”
The case is Blumhorst v. Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles, 05 S.O.S. 854.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company