Editor’s note: This story contains offensive language in order to understand the basis of the lawsuit.

An Auburn family filed a lawsuit in federal court last week against the Auburn Housing Authority and two of its employees “for multiple violations of the civil, constitutional, contractual and statutory rights of the entire family” during a heated dispute.

Dominique and Justin Deschaine, along with three unnamed children, allege that during a spat over their water-damaged, mold-filled apartment, a worker for the authority told Justine Deschaine to “shut the f*** up, you black b****” and to “move out” if she wasn’t happy.

The Maine Human Rights Commission ruled last February the authority and one of its maintenance workers discriminated against the Black tenants during the June 2022 dispute, a decision that set off an informal conciliation process that apparently did not resolve the issues.

In May, the commission notified the Deschaines of their right to file a civil suit, which they did on Nov. 21.

An attorney for the housing agency, Jonathan Brogan, told the state commission last winter that “an unfortunate disagreement” occurred between its workers and the Deschaines, that included “a lot of difficult words,” but the dispute didn’t rise to the level of racial discrimination.


The lawsuit, filed by Portland attorneys James Clifford and Andrew Cotter, names as defendants the housing authority and two of its employees, Daniel Jordan and Leah Landry.

Neither the authority nor the employees have filed a response.

The Deschaines had a lease with the authority for an apartment at 702 Broadview Ave. between April 1, 2022, and March 30, 2023. In the suit, they said conditions there “endangered and materially impaired the health and safety” of the family and made the place uninhabitable.

After Justine Deschaine complained to the authority about “leaking pipes, damage to her floors, the presence of mold and mildew, poor air quality, and strong odors,” the suit said, nothing happened.

It said when a frustrated Deschaine renewed her complaints, Landry told her, “You should stay calm because people like you get angry and then you look like you’re the problem.”

Later, Jordan told her to “shut up” and asked why she didn’t move out if she was unhappy with the living conditions in her apartment. As he got back in his truck, the suit said, in bold letters, that Jordan told Deschaine, “SHUT THE F*** UP, YOU BLACK B****.”

The comments by Jordan and Landry were “offensive and laced with racial animus and stereotypes,” the suit said. It was also “intentional, extreme and outrageous, exceeded all possible bounds of decency, and must be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the suit said.

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