Civil and Human Rights

Justices Appear Wary of Weakening Fair Housing Act

By Tony Mauro


Oral arguments in a major housing discrimination case before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday left some advocates more optimistic than they expected to be that a broad interpretation of the Fair Housing Act will survive….


But following an hourlong argument in the case, it appeared possible that the law might emerge intact—or at least the damage won’t be as great as housing advocates have feared. Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center said, “A majority of justices today appeared to reject Texas’ attempt to limit the reach of the Fair Housing Act.”


Stacy Seicshnaydre, a professor at Tulane University Law School, also came away thinking that disparate-impact claims might survive. “I am more optimistic that the justices are going to exercise great caution before eliminating the disparate-impact standard for all cases and all time,” she said.


Seicshnaydre pointed to vigorous questioning by Justice Antonin Scalia, who repeatedly pointed out that 1988 amendments to the 1968 Fair Housing Act took disparate-impact claims into account. The original law and later amendments should be taken together, he said, in interpreting the meaning of the law….

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