Dumpson vs. Ade
In 2017, Taylor Dumpson was inaugurated as the first Black woman student government president of American University in Washington, D.C. The following day, someone hung nooses around campus in a hate crime targeting her. Shortly thereafter, Andrew Anglin wrote a racist article targeting Dumpson on his neo-Nazi website, ‘The Daily Stormer.’ Anglin incited his followers to threaten and harass Dumpson on social media and they obliged, bombarding her with intimidation. Dumpson feared for her physical safety, she was afraid to walk around campus alone, her studies were impaired, and she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law brought a lawsuit on behalf of Dumpson before the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia, arguing that under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, her right to equal enjoyment of public accommodations and right to education had been violated. A “place of public accommodation” is a business or other entity (in this case her university) that offers goods or services to the general public. Anglin, his company Moonbase Holdings LLC, and two other individuals were named as defendants.
The Lawyers’ Committee crafted a restorative justice settlement with one defendant who expressed remorse and a genuine desire to leave white supremacy behind. In exchange for no monetary damages, this defendant made a formal apology, engaged in counseling, studied racial and social justice under the guidance of community and faith leaders and volunteered with organizations advancing racial justice and tolerance in his community.
After Anglin failed to show up and defend himself in court, Lawyers’ Committee filed a motion for default judgement. A default judgment is the legal equivalent of a forfeit—because the Defendant did not show up in court, he loses the case by default.
For the first time anywhere in the United States, the court ruled that online harassment can unlawfully interfere with equal enjoyment of public accommodations and awarded her over $725,000.