STATEMENT OF PAUL F. HANCOCK, K&L GATES LLP, ON DECISION OF U.S. SUPREME COURT UPHOLDING ‘DISPARATE-IMPACT LIABILITY’ UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT

By: Paul F. Hancock

The Court’s decision today resolves an important legal issue about which there has been principled disagreement among White House administrations, as well as among advocacy and industry groups, for decades. While the Court, by a razor thin margin, upheld the application of disparate impact under the Fair Housing Act, the Court also imposed important limitations on the application of the legal theory. For example, the Court held that a racial imbalance, without more, does not establish a case of discrimination, and directed lower courts to “examine with care” the claims presented at the pleading stage. The Court further directed that remedial orders in disparate impact cases must “concentrate on the elimination of the offending practice” and employ “race-neutral [remedial] means.” The limitations that were announced were believed necessary by the Court to “avoid serious constitutional questions that might arise” and “to protect potential defendants against abusive disparate-impact claims.”

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