The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday turned down a challenge to the District of Columbia's law prohibiting the use of lead-base paint in Washington housing, thus leaving intact the seven-year-old ordinance.
The challenge came from Washington landlord Talley R. Holmes Jr., who in 1977 was fined $150 and five days in jail for violating the housing regulation prohibiting lead paint.
A city housing inspector in July 1977 found excessive amounts of toxic lead on the walls of an apartment building Holmes owned at 1213 4th St. NW. Holmes was ordered to correct the problem in 15 days. He responded by evicting the tenant living in the apartment building at the time. Holmes requested a 100-day extension of the order, was denied the extension and then was charged with violating the housing regulation.
Holmes' lawyers argued in their appeal that the city's law put an unfair economic burden on landlords and amounted to an unconstitutional deprivation of property.
Under the 1973 law, lead-based paint is prohibited because it was found to cause mental retardation in young children who eat it. Holmes was the first landlord whom city attorneys took to court under the law when a city housing inspector found lead paint violations at another Holmes apartment property on 18th Street NW in July 1974. He was convicted in that earlier incident of 21 violations of the city's housing code.