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HAMTRAMCK — The City of Hamtramck is pleased to announce the dismissal of Garrett, et al. v. Hamtramck, et al.  U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth A. Stafford issued the order of dismissal on April 23.

The case was dismissed because the city fulfilled an obligation to build 350 housing units. The final units were completed in December 2023.

The class action case began in 1968 and was perhaps the oldest case in the federal court system. The original action charged that African American homeowners in the city were discriminated against when they were displaced by the construction of I-75.  Eventually, under the terms of a partial consent judgment, the court required the southeastern Michigan city to build 150 units of senior housing and 200 units of housing throughout the city.

“This is an historic day,” said Odey Meroueh, Hamtramck city attorney.  “Judge Stafford’s termination of jurisdiction gives us an opportunity to reflect on just how far this city has come from its sad history of racial discrimination.”

Many of the plaintiffs who filed the original class action have died or moved.  Fifteen years ago, U.S. Judge Damon Keith expanded the class to include descendants of the original plaintiffs.

The construction of new homes over the last two decades at scattered sites throughout the city stabilized neighborhoods and helped fuel the city’s population growth.  The 200 units of remedial housing alone reportedly accounted for approximately $60 million in economic development.

“The plaintiffs filed this case years before many of us in city government were born.  While it has been an honor to see long-delayed justice finally delivered, I am humbled to be just one of many city leaders that took the steps necessary to correct an injustice that never should have occurred,” said Hamtramck City Manager Maxwell Garbarino. “I’d especially like to thank my predecessor, Kathleen Angerer, and Mayors Zych, Jankowski, Majewski and Ghalib, all of whom demonstrated the compassionate leadership necessary to complete this project.  It is my fervent hope that these houses bring peace and comfort to the plaintiffs.  As we bring this chapter in the city’s history to a close, we are determined to make Hamtramck even more welcoming and inclusive.”

Attorney James Allen of the Schenk & Bruetsch law firm was instrumental in bringing closure to the longstanding issue. Magistrate Stafford called him “a real champion of justice.”

Allen and his colleague Harry Kalogerakos not only urged the city to work toward a remedy, but they also drafted development agreements and secured grants to help navigate impediments created at a time when the city was under emergency management. The pair have spent most of the last 20 years helping the city complete the homes.

“Many people were called to the bar for an opportunity to work on a case like this,” Allen said. “I am grateful the universe put me in that position.”