§5-11A-13. Election of remedies; administrative hearings and discovery; exclusivity of remedies; final orders; review by commission; judicial review; remedies; attorney fees.
(a) When a charge is filed under section eleven of this article, a complainant, a respondent or an aggrieved person on whose behalf the complaint was filed, may elect to have the claims asserted in that charge decided in a civil action under subsection (o) of this section in lieu of a hearing under subsection (b) of this section. The election must be made not later than twenty days after the receipt by the electing person of service under section eleven of this article or, in the case of the commission, not later than twenty days after such service. The person making such election shall give notice of doing so to the commission and to all other complainants and respondents to whom the charge relates.

(b) If an election is not made under subsection (a) of this section with respect to a charge filed under section eleven of this article, the commission shall provide an opportunity for a hearing on the record with respect to a charge issued under said section. The commission shall delegate the conduct of a hearing under this section to an administrative law judge who shall be a licensed attorney. The administrative law judge shall conduct the hearing at a place in the county in which the discriminatory housing practice is alleged to have occurred or is about to occur.

(c) At a hearing under this section, each party may appear in person, be represented by counsel, present evidence, cross-examine witnesses and obtain the issuance of subpoenas under section twelve of this article. Any aggrieved person may intervene as a party in the proceeding. The rules of evidence apply to the presentation of evidence in such hearing as they would in a civil action in the circuit courts of this state. The case in support of the complaint shall be presented before the administrative law judge by the attorney general.

(d) (1) Discovery in administrative proceedings under this section shall be conducted as expeditiously and inexpensively as possible, consistent with the need of all parties to obtain relevant evidence.

(2) A hearing under this section shall be conducted as expeditiously and inexpensively as possible, consistent with the needs and rights of the parties to obtain a fair hearing and a complete record.

(3) The commission shall, not later than one hundred eighty days after the date of enactment of this subsection, issue rules to implement this subsection.

(e) Any resolution of a charge before a final order under this section shall require the consent of the aggrieved person on whose behalf the charge is issued.

(f) An administrative law judge may not continue administrative proceedings under this section regarding any alleged discriminatory housing practice after the beginning of the trial of a civil action commenced by the aggrieved party under an act of Congress or a state law seeking relief with respect to that discriminatory housing practice.

(g) (1) The administrative law judge shall commence the hearing under this section no later than one hundred twenty days following the issuance of the charge, unless it is impracticable to do so. If the administrative law judge is unable to commence the hearing within one hundred twenty days after the issuance of the charge, the administrative law judge shall notify the commission, the aggrieved person on whose behalf the charge was filed and the respondent in writing of the reasons for not doing so.

(2) The administrative law judge shall make findings of fact and conclusions of law within sixty days after the end of the hearing under this section, unless it is impracticable to do so. If the administrative law judge is unable to make findings of fact and conclusions of law within such period, or any succeeding sixty-day period thereafter, the administrative law judge shall notify the commission, the aggrieved person on whose behalf the charge was filed and the respondent in writing of the reasons for not doing so.

(3) If the administrative law judge finds that a respondent has engaged or is about to engage in a discriminatory housing practice, such administrative law judge shall promptly issue an order for such relief as may be appropriate, which may include actual damages suffered by the aggrieved person and injunctive or other equitable relief. Such order may, to vindicate the public interest, assess a civil penalty against the respondent: (A) In an amount not exceeding ten thousand dollars if the respondent has not been adjudged to have committed any prior discriminatory housing practice; (B) in an amount not exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars if the respondent has been adjudged to have committed one other discriminatory housing practice during the five-year period ending on the date of the filing of this charge; and (C) in an amount not exceeding fifty thousand dollars if the respondent has been adjudged to have committed two or more discriminatory housing practices during the seven-year period ending on the date of the filing of this charge; except that if the acts constituting the discriminatory housing practice that are the object of the charge are committed by the same natural person who has been previously adjudged to have committed acts constituting a discriminatory housing practice, then the civil penalties set forth in subparagraphs (B) and (C) may be imposed without regard to the period of time within which any subsequent discriminatory housing practice occurred.

(4) No such order shall affect any contract, sale, encumbrance or lease consummated before the issuance of such order and involving a bona fide purchaser, encumbrancer or tenant without actual notice of the charge filed under this article.

(5) In the case of an order with respect to a discriminatory housing practice that occurred in the course of a business subject to licensing or regulation by a governmental agency, the commission shall, not later than thirty days after the date of the issuance of such order or, if such order is judicially reviewed, thirty days after such order is in substance affirmed upon such review: (A) Send copies of the findings of fact, conclusions of law and the order to that governmental agency; and (B) recommend to that governmental agency appropriate disciplinary action, including, where appropriate, the suspension or revocation of the license of the respondent.

(6) In the case of an order against a respondent against whom another order was issued within the preceding five years under this section, the commission shall send a copy of each such order to the attorney general.

(7) If the administrative law judge finds that the respondent has not engaged or is not about to engage in a discriminatory housing practice, as the case may be, such administrative law judge shall enter an order dismissing the charge. The commission shall make public disclosure of each such dismissal.

(h) (1) The commission may review any finding, conclusion or order issued under subsection (g) of this section. Such review shall be completed not later than thirty days after the finding, conclusion or order is so issued; otherwise the finding, conclusion or order becomes final.

(2) The commission shall cause the findings of fact and conclusions of law made with respect to any final order for relief under this section, together with a copy of such order, to be served on each aggrieved person and each respondent in the proceeding.

(i) (1) Any party aggrieved by a final order for relief under this section granting or denying, in whole or in part, the relief sought may obtain a review of such order under section four, article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.

(2) Notwithstanding chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, venue of the proceeding shall be in the judicial circuit in which the discriminatory housing practice is alleged to have occurred and filing of the petition for review shall be not later than thirty days after the order is entered.

(j) (1) The commission may petition the circuit court in the circuit in which the discriminatory housing practice is alleged to have occurred or in which any respondent resides or transacts business for the enforcement of the order of the administrative law judge and for appropriate temporary relief or injunctive relief by filing in such court a written petition praying that such order be enforced and for appropriate temporary relief or injunctive relief.

(2) The commission shall file in court with the petition the record in the proceeding. A copy of such petition shall be forthwith transmitted by the clerk of the court to the parties to the proceeding before the administrative law judge.

(k) (1) Upon the filing of a petition under subsection (i) or (j) of this section, the court may:

(A) Grant to the petitioner, or any other party, such temporary relief, injunction or other order as the court deems just and proper;

(B) Affirm the order or decision of the administrative law judge or remand the case for further proceedings. It shall reverse, vacate or modify the order or decision of the administrative law judge if the substantial rights of the parties have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences, conclusions, decision or order are: (i) In violation of constitutional or statutory provisions; or (ii) in excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the commission; or (iii) made upon unlawful procedures; or (iv) affected by other error of law; or (v) clearly wrong in view of the reliable, probative and substantial evidence on the whole record; or (vi) arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion; and

(C) Enforce such order to the extent that such order is affirmed or modified.

(2) Any party to the proceeding before the administrative law judge may intervene in the circuit court.

(3) No objection not made before the administrative law judge shall be considered by the court, unless the failure or neglect to urge such objection is excused because of extraordinary circumstances.

(4) The judgment of the circuit court shall be final unless reversed, vacated or modified on appeal to the supreme court of appeals of this state in accordance with the provisions of section one, article six, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.

(l) If no petition for review is filed under subsection (i) of this section before the expiration of forty-five days after the date the administrative law judge's order is entered, the administrative law judge's findings of fact and order shall be conclusive in connection with any petition for enforcement: (1) Which is filed by the commission under subsection (j) of this section after the end of such day; or (2) under subsection (m) of this section.

(m) If before the expiration of sixty days after the date the administrative law judge's order is entered, no petition for review has been filed under subsection (i) of this section, and the commission has not sought enforcement of the order under subsection (j) of this section, any person entitled to relief under the order may petition for a decree enforcing the order in the circuit court for the circuit in which the discriminatory housing practice is alleged to have occurred.

(n) The judge of the circuit court in which a petition for enforcement is filed under subsection (l) or (m) of this section shall forthwith enter a decree enforcing the order and shall transmit a copy of such decree to the commission, the respondent named in the petition and to any other parties to the proceeding before the administrative law judge. The judgment of the circuit court shall be final unless reversed, vacated or modified on appeal to the supreme court of appeals pursuant to section one, article six, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.

(o) (1) If an election is made under subsection (a) of this section, the commission shall authorize, and not later than thirty days after the election is made the attorney general shall commence and maintain, a civil action on behalf of the aggrieved person in the appropriate circuit court seeking relief under this subsection. Venue for such civil action shall be in the circuit court in the county in which the alleged discriminatory housing practice occurred.

(2) Any aggrieved person with respect to the issues to be determined in a civil action under this subsection may intervene as of right in that civil action.

(3) In a civil action under this subsection, if the court finds that a discriminatory housing practice has occurred or is about to occur, the court may grant as relief any relief which a court could grant with respect to such discriminatory housing practice in a civil action under section fourteen of this article. Any relief so granted that would accrue to an aggrieved person in a civil action commenced by that aggrieved person under said section shall also accrue to that aggrieved person in a civil action under this subsection. If monetary relief is sought for the benefit of an aggrieved person who does not intervene in the civil action, the court shall not award such relief if that aggrieved person has not complied with discovery orders entered by the court.

(p) In any administrative proceeding brought under this section, or any court proceeding arising therefrom, or any civil action under section fourteen of this article, the administrative law judge or the court, as the case may be, in its discretion, may allow a prevailing complainant a reasonable attorney's fee and costs.