Ortiz & Schick Announces New Partner Sean F. Doyle

From the beginning of our careers, most attorneys aspire to become a partner.  As we all quickly learn, becoming a partner in a law firm takes dedication, hard work, long hours, ambition, and that thing that sets you apart from all the others.  You not only must do great work, but also forge great relationships with your clients, peers, opposing counsel, and most importantly, you must grow your business.  Attorney Sean Doyle has done all of that.  And that is why it gives us great pleasure to announce that Sean is now a partner at Ortiz & Schick.

Sean has been with us as an associate since 2012.  He will continue to focus his practice on the litigation of business, surety, construction, and commercial real estate disputes.  Sean is also becoming an all star in the realm of Fair Housing law.  Whether it is an apartment resident requesting their pet pig be recognized as an emotional support animal (and, therefore, be allowed to live in the apartment), or an online psychologist handing out service animal certificates to anyone willing to pay the right price, Sean has seen and heard it all.  He routinely reviews and advises multi-state property management companies regarding reasonable accommodation and modification requests, along with compliance with state and federal fair housing laws for their multi-family communities. And he writes about it in his blog, FairHousingIssuesReview.

We are excited about this next phase of our firm and all that Sean will bring to it as a partner.  It is impossible for us to do what we do without great people, and Sean is a stellar example of just that.

10th Anniversary

Why We Are Here – 10 Years Later

Last month we celebrated our 10th anniversary at Caffé Luna in Raleigh with friends, family, clients, fellow attorneys, judges, and many others we have met over the past decade. We are here because of all of those people and their support and trust. We are here because our clients have come back time and time again, as their businesses have grown or changed, or as new needs have arisen. We are here because our spouses supported us when we had rough days, when we had late nights, and when cases did not go as planned. We are here because of the other legal professionals that we have genuinely enjoyed working with. And we are here because of each other – because the stressful and busy moments are not as overwhelming when the entire office family is your support system. Thank you! Thank you to each and every one of you who celebrated with us, whether in person or in spirit.

We hope you enjoy a few photos from our celebration!  (photo credit to Callie Doty)

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The U.S. Supreme Court Upholds “Disparate Impact” Claims Under The Fair Housing Act

Although it was largely overshadowed by more publicized rulings involving the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality, the U.S. Supreme Court also issued a key decision involving the Fair Housing Act last week.  In Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that parties may bring “disparate impact” claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

So what is a disparate impact claim?  A plaintiff bringing a disparate impact claim must show that a particular policy or practice has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of a class protected under the FHA.  Contrast this from disparate treatment claims, where a plaintiff is alleging that he or she was treated adversely because of the defendant’s discriminatory intent or motive.  Accordingly, a property’s policy or procedure that is facially non-discriminatory, but which has a disproportionately adverse effect on a protected class, may be a violation of the Fair Housing Act under a disparate impact theory—even if the property had absolutely no discriminatory intent or motive in enacting the policy or procedure.

So is this a big deal? Well, kind of.  While this is the first time that the Supreme Court has ruled on this specific issue, every federal court of appeals that has reviewed the issue has upheld the validity of disparate impact claims.  And the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has taken the position that the FHA encompasses disparate impact claims.  As such, the Supreme Court’s decision does not represent a change in the law—rather, it merely upholds the status quo.  Although it should be noted that the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill that would prohibit the Department of Justice from using funds to prosecute or settle discrimination cases filed under a disparate impact theory.

So how does this impact landlords and management companies?  Hopefully, you have already been scrutinizing your policies and procedures to determine if they might have a disproportionate impact on protected class members.  We have routinely advised our clients over the years to proceed as though disparate impact theories were cognizable under the Fair Housing Act, and to revise their policies and procedures effectively.  If there is any uncertainty as to whether your policies or procedures may have a disparate impact on a protected class, I would recommend that you seek out experienced counsel to help you retool your policies.

3 Must-Haves When Hiring a Construction Lawyer

Hiring a construction lawyer is much like hiring a contractor: you need to hire the right one. If you hire the wrong lawyer, you may not recover what you are entitled to recover. Unlike a personal injury case, or a contract dispute, if you have a construction issue, you need a specialist lawyer. You need a construction lawyer. In addition, you need a specialist lawyer with particular talents.

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