Among a flurry of opinions issued recently by the Supreme Court as it prepared to close out its judiciary session on June 30 was a split decision on a broad interpretation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
In a 5-4 decision penned by frequent swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court allowed for plaintiffs suing under the housing law to only prove “disparate impact” rather than the more stringent standard of intentional discrimination. Disparate impact is frequently demonstrated through the use of statistics, which are fairly easy to obtain, while proving intentional discrimination is significantly more difficult given that agencies and businesses rarely document blatant discrimination in their records.
Justice Kennedy was joined by the four more liberal-leaning members of the court — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The original suit has Texas roots and was first filed by the Inclusive Communities Project against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The Inclusive Communities Project is a Dallas-based organization that helps low-income black families find affordable housing in Dallas suburbs that are primarily white.