Fair Housing Act Case Settles…Again

The Supreme Court wants to resolve an issue but it cannot.  Why?  Because the cases it has accepted involving the issue keep on settling right before oral argument. 

For the second time in two years, the parties have settled a dispute before the Supreme Court over whether the Fair Housing Act (FHA) allows plaintiffs to bring disparate impact claims.  Local governments across the country have been subject to these claims. 
 
The FHA makes it unlawful to refuse to sell or rent a property to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.  The question presented in Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action v. Township of Mount Holly, was whether a policy or action (here, a plan to redevelop a low-income minority neighborhood) that disproportionately affects a protected class of citizens without intentionally discriminating on the basis of race or other factors can give rise to an FHA claim.

All of the federal circuit courts have ruled that disparate impact claims are cognizable under the FHA, and this year the Department of Housing and Urban Development adopted final rules stating the same.  USA Today reports that the financial services industry has vowed to find another case to bring to the Supreme Court—one that won’t settle. 

It is widely speculated that the current Supreme Court would hold that disparate impact claims cannot be brought under the FHA.