Legality and Risk: Recent Legal Opinions Assess Bay View’s Restrictive Membership Requirements with Respect to Property Ownership in Bay View
The Bay View Board of Trustees has considered multiple legal opinions relative to legal risk associated with Bay View’s current restrictive membership rules. In assessing these opinions, several questions arise:
Are all opinions from qualified law firms?
Yes… and no. All opinions are written by licensed attorneys. However, only two (Plunkett Cooney and NPL&M) come from firms legally obligated to protect the interests of Bay view and the Bay View Board of Trustees. Other opinions cannot be considered credible because they reflect the interests, not of the BOT, but of groups wishing to retain Bay View’s restrictive membership rules.
Why did the Board incorporate other opinions after first seeking advice from Plunket Cooney?
The Board has not explained its reasons for considering other opinions. However it is not unusual to seek multiple opinions when the original opinion warns of imminent risk. When a second opinion reinforces the first, decision making can be easier and a path forward more confidently planned.
Do all opinions acknowledge substantial legal risks to Bay view?
Yes. All opinions are narrowly focused on risks associated with Bay View’s non-compliance with Fair Housing laws. Additional legal issues and other serious risks are not addressed.
Do the opinions come to similar conclusions?
No. Two opinions (Plunkett Cooney and NPL&M) conclude that Bay View is in violation of Federal Fair Housing law and advise removal of “Christian Persuasion” and related language from the Association’s membership requirements. The Becket Fund concludes that Bay View could successfully claim an exemption from Federal Fair Housing Laws and thus survive a challenge to its current restrictive membership practices.
Are all opinions equally credible?
No. Only The Plunkett Cooney and NPL&M opinions, because they were issued by law firms representing the interests of the BOT, can rightfully be considered credible. The NPL&M opinion gains special importance because it was reviewed and endorsed by Philip R. Moots, chief attorney for the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, with which Bay View is affiliated. The Becket opinion merits less consideration, in light of several serious issues:
- It cautions that its opinion applies to federal law only and may not hold under Michigan civil rights law.
- It states that it cannot be relied upon by the Bay View Board or membership .
- It openly admits that it might reach different conclusions if the Becket Fund had access to all relevant facts.
- Becket’s avowed role as an advocacy group casts doubt on the objectivity and reliability of its conclusions.
Expert legal opinion has determined that Bay View’s restrictive membership practices violate Fair Housing Laws. Associated risks to our community are significant and real. 7.8.13