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Housing Project Allowed To Refuse Mentally Ill Applicant

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In 1980, a non-profit group in Cleveland, Ohio, applied for federal funds to renovate a former Franciscan Monastery. Our Lady of Angels Apartments, Inc., used the money to turn the former monastery into housing for the elderly and disabled. A decade later, Our Lady of Angels was sued by a prospective tenant over allegations that they did not provide housing for the mentally ill.

Our Lady of Angels made the conversion into housing for the elderly under the National Housing Act of 1959. That law set up federal loan programs to encourage development of housing projects. When Our Lady of Angels first proposed what became known as Franciscan Village, it planned to “provide housing and appropriate support service to persons over sixty-two years of age or physically handicapped.” The loan was approved, and the conversion was completed.

In 1988, Congress adopted amendments to the Fair Housing Act. Those amendments prohibit discrimination on the basis of handicap, regardless of the nature of the handicap. Some advocates have argued that the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988 require programs like Franciscan Village to accept all disabled applicants, regardless of the nature of the disability.

Also in 1988, Roseanne Beckert applied to be put on the waiting list for Franciscan Village. She indicated that she was disabled, but did not describe her disability. When an opening developed in 1993, Ms. Beckert filled out the formal application, indicating that her disability was a “mental-schizo” condition, and that she was being treated with medication. Our Lady of Angels determined that she was neither elderly nor physically handicapped, and declined her application to reside at Franciscan Village.

Ms. Beckert sued, claiming that the Fair Housing Act Amendments prohibited Our Lady of Angels from choosing to accept only applicants with certain kinds of disabilities. In response, Our Lady of Angels pointed to its federal loan application, which specifically noted that it did not possess the skills or resources to handle the mentally ill or developmentally disabled. Nothing in the new law adopted in 1988, argued Our Lady of Angels, required that they begin accepting handicapped applicants of all ages, regardless of the nature of their disability.

The Federal District Court in Cleveland agreed with Our Lady of Angels, and dismissed Ms. Beckert’s lawsuit. She appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the appellate judges also agreed with Our Lady of Angels’ arguments. Ms. Beckert will not be entitled to move into a federally-funded housing program designed for the elderly and physically disabled. Beckert v. Our Lady of Angels Apartments, Inc., Sept. 27, 1999.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

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Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.