This is a motion by the petitioner, New York State Commission for Human Rights, for an order, pursuant to section 298 of the Executive Law, enforcing the order of the New York State Commission for Human Rights, dated January 31, 1968, against the respondents.
It appears that as the result of a hearing held by three Commissioners of the State Commission for Human Rights, the respondents were found to have engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices in violation of section 296 (subd. 5, par. [a], cl. ) of the Executive Law by reason of their alleged refusal to rent certain housing accommodations to the complainants because of their color.
The basic issues presented herein are as stated by counsel to the commission: "1. Whether the Commission's finding that the respondents engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices is supported by substantial evidence on the record considered as a whole.
"2. Whether the affirmative action provisions of the Commission's order constitute a reasonable exercise of the judgment of the Commission to effectuate the purposes of the law."
The court notes, at the outset, that throughout the proceedings before the State Commission for Human Rights, the respondents were not represented by counsel. While there is no requirement that a party must be represented by counsel in administrative proceedings, there is no question that by reason of the present day complexities of administrative proceedings the layman who elects to represent himself does so at a peril that is indeed substantial.
However, the court knows of no specific precedent which would nullify these administrative proceedings by reason of the apparent decision by the stockholders, officers and directors of the corporate respondent to proceed without representation by counsel.
The respondent, E. Landau Industries, Inc., was the lessee in full possession and control of a certain building located at 385 McLean Avenue, Yonkers, N. Y., pursuant to a long-term lease. The building contains 83 apartments. The respondent, Emil Landau, was the president and sole stockholder of the corporate respondent. The respondent, John Higgins, was employed by the corporation as the superintendent of the subject building, with authority to show apartments and take applications which would later be referred to the respondent, Landau.
The testimony by the complainants which was obviously accepted as credible by the commission indicates a refusal to rent housing accommodations to the complainants because of their color, which would further indicate a policy of refusing to rent or lease housing accommodations to Negroes because of their color. The order of the commission, dated January 31, 1968, requires the respondents to cease and desist from refusing to rent housing accommodations to the complainants or any other person because of race or color.
Counsel to the commission correctly states in his brief that the cease and desist provisions of the commission's order impose no obligation on the respondents other than the requirements of the law itself.
However, the commission's order also directs affirmative action on the part of the respondents. Paragraphs A (1) and A (2) require the corporate respondent and the respondent, Emil Landau, to sell, rent or lease, and to apply the same standard, terms, conditions and privileges in the rental of all housing accommodations, land or commercial space subject to the law against discrimination. These requirements represent a restatement of the requirements of the law itself. However, counsel for the commission states that at the present, neither the corporate respondent nor the respondent, Emil Landau, owns any housing rental property. It appears that the respondent, Emil Landau, does own some commercial rental property. Apparently, the commission's order includes a directive with respect to land and commercial space by reason of the fact that represents the only type of accommodations presently owned by any of the respondents.
Paragraph A (3) requires the corporate respondent, and the respondent, Emil Landau, to transmit to the commission a report covering the housing accommodations, land and commercial space presently available for sale or rent. Paragraph A (6) requires the said respondents to maintain records for inspection by the commission for a period of one year.
Paragraph A(4) requires the corporate respondent and the respondent, Emil Landau, to issue instructions to their employees regarding the requirements of the law against discrimination.
Paragraph A (5) requires the corporate respondent and the respondent, Emil Landau, to post copies of the ...