Appraiser Countersues Black Plaintiffs Who Alleged Discrimination
by Isaac Peck, Publisher WorkingRE
There are now a number of lawsuits facing appraisers where the primary allegation is racial discrimination.
Tate-Austin v. Janette Miller, filed in California in Dec. 2021, was one of the first (and perhaps the most publicized). But since late 2021, a number of similar lawsuits have popped up—from North Carolina to Maryland.
Connolly & Mott v. Shane Lanham et al. is one highly publicized lawsuit covered at length by mainstream media–CBS News, The New York Times, NBC, CNN, ABC News, and more.
Filed in August 2022 in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, Connolly and Mott allege that Lanham discriminated against them and violated professional appraisal standards because of his allegedly “racist beliefs” (among other things).
Mr. Lanham is now countersuing Connolly and Mott for labeling him a racist, making false and defamatory accusations, and causing severe harm to his business, his reputation, and his well-being. Alongside his counterclaim, Lanham has also filed a Motion to Dismiss Connolly and Mott’s initial claim, arguing that they have failed to show any facts that support he discriminated against them.
“Plaintiffs cannot transform allegations of incompetence or a breach of appraisal industry standards into racial discrimination by baldly alleging that Mr. Lanham believed that Plaintiffs did not belong in their neighborhood and that their home was worth less than other homes because of their race. There are no facts alleged in the First Amended Complaint, and none can be alleged with good faith, that Mr. Lanham treated Plaintiffs any differently than homeowners of other races,” the motion reads.
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My comments: Long article and worth reading. Discusses many issues and lawsuits. I don’t write about this topic much. My opinion is that everyone is biased against something. I learned I was biased against young Black men when I was on a criminal jury many years ago.
When a young Black man, the defendant, walked into court, I immediately thought he was guilty. I sent a note to the judge who excused me publically in court. I was very, very embarrassed. But it would have been a lot worse to stay on the jury and vote to convict him. My parents raised us not to be prejudiced against anyone. But I grew up in Tulsa, OK, next to Greenwood, an area of successful Black residents prior to 1921. The Tulsa race massacre occurred on May 31, 1921. I never heard it mentioned by anyone. Older people, who knew about it, never spoke of it. Some newspaper issues were destroyed.
I assume that since I had been appraising in high crime neighborhoods, I became prejudiced. I work hard not to show it. I don’t cross the street when I see a young black man coming towards me, and I smile when we pass, but I do get a little nervous. What is most important is recognizing and not acting on your prejudice.
I have been tempted to lower a value when an owner’s large do dog jumps on me or tries to bite me. But I know I don’t like aggressive large dogs and don’t let it affect my value.
Of course, some appraisers could be biased. But, for residential lender appraisers, there is no advantage to coming in “low” on any residential lender appraisal. You may lose a client.
In the past, appraisers were trained by FHA to redline, with lower values in Black neighborhoods. Appraisal textbooks and classes included this. But, it all changed in the mid-1970s, when I started appraising and was no longer allowed. Hopefully, I would not have become an appraiser working for residential lenders before then because of the obvious bias.
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