LAGRANGE, Ga. — Several civil rights organizations have filed a lawsuit against LaGrange claiming the city has threatened to cut off utilities to some residents who have unpaid court fees.
About five different organizations have filed the federal lawsuit. Some of them include the Georgia NAACP, the National Immigration Law Center and the Southern Center for Human Rights. All organizations claim the city’s policy disproportionately affects African-Americans and Latinos.
According to the lawsuit, African Americans make up 49-percent of the city’s population but 90 percent of the utility customers threatened with disconnection from 2015 to 2016 are black.
Charles Brewer is one of several plaintiffs. He suffers from congestive heart failure and is on a list to receive a heart transplant. He said hearing that he may have his utilities cut off was enough to send him to the hospital.
“When I thought about everything and heard about it I ended up in the hospital,” 55-year-old Brewer said. “I ended up having to take a sleeping test. I was just stressed out.”
The lawsuit also says applicants must provide a social security number and a state or federal photo ID to apply for utility services. The lawsuit goes on to say immigrants, mainly Latinos, can’t meet this requirement, which means they can’t get utility services.
Jeff Todd, an attorney for the city of LaGrange, gave a statement regarding the lawsuit.
“One of the policies the plaintiffs have attacked has been in effect for well over a decade and the other for multiple decades and we look forward to demonstrating to the court that the policies are simply even handed ordinances designed to simply put required payment of just obligations, which is the city’s responsibility to the citizens of LaGrange,” Todd said. “Neither policy of course is effected by the race or national origin of the customer and both are fairly applied to all citizens of LaGrange and we look forward to demonstrating that to the court.”
The lawsuit was filed less than a month ago and is still in its early stages.