John P. Relman

Founder and Managing Partner, Relman Colfax

John P. Relman is the founder and managing partner of Relman Colfax. For more than 30 years,he has represented individual plaintiffs, cities, and civil rights organizations in many of the country’s most important civil rights cases. Widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers, John has pioneered groundbreaking fair housing and fair lending cases that have expanded the scope and reach of the Fair Housing Act. 

John founded the firm in 1999. Before that he served for 10 years as Director of the Fair Housing Project at the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights. Early in his career, John was lead counsel in the groundbreaking Denny’s Restaurant class action, which resulted in a settlement of more than $17 million for minority customers discriminated against at the chain’s restaurants. He brought some of the first redlining and mortgage discrimination cases in the nation, including the first predatory lending case to recognize the cause of action now known as reverse redlining, Hargraves v. Capital City Mortgage Co. Following the mortgage foreclosure crisis in 2008, John filed the first reverse redlining cases to be brought on behalf of major U.S. cities against financial institutions that targeted minority communities for predatory loans. John has won multi-million-dollar verdicts and settlements in housing and public accommodation discrimination cases across the country. Central to his work have been cases like Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center v. St. Bernard Parish, focusing on the discriminatory effect of policies and practices that perpetuate segregation. 

Recent litigation includes challenges to the use of blanket bans in housing for those re-entering society from jail and prison, and litigation against cities that use chronic nuisance ordinances to evict families in underserved communities of color. In addition to litigation, John leads the firm’s civil rights counseling practice, which provides compliance counseling and advice to progressive companies and lending institutions. 

John has published and lectured extensively in the area of civil rights law and litigation. He is author of the widely used Housing Discrimination Practice Manual, published by the West Group, and has taught public interest law at Georgetown University Law Center and fair housing and employment discrimination law at the Washington College of Law at The American University. John has won numerous awards from civil rights organizations across the country for his work. He has repeatedly been named a “Super Lawyer,” and one of Washingtonian’s “Best Civil Rights Lawyers” both nationally and in Washington D.C. 

John serves on numerous boards, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; the D.C. Bar Foundation; the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; and the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.