13 November 2013

Law in Plain English: Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc.

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

SCOTUSblogMount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc.

Argument: Dec 4 2013

Background: Mount Holly Township proposed a redevelopment plan that would eliminate the existing homes in its Gardens neighborhood, occupied predominantly by low-income residents, and replace them with significantly more expensive housing units. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action (an association of Gardens residents) filed a lawsuit suit against the Township alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act (among other claims). The FHA makes it unlawful to "refuse to sell or rent...or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin." Under current Third Circuit precedent, the FHA can be violated by either intentional discrimination or if a practice has a disparate impact on a protected class. In order to evaluate disparate impact claims (which do not require proof of discriminatory intent), courts will look at whether it disproportionately burdened a particular racial group so as to cause a disparate impact. The District Court ruled that there was no prima facie case of discrimination under the FHA and that, even if there was, the Residents had not shown how an alternative course of action would have had a lesser impact. The Third Circuit reversed, finding that evidence submitted by the Residents was sufficient to establish a prima facie case.

Issue: The question before the Court is whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.

Holding: N/A. The parties settled before oral arguments. See the press release here.
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