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Amicus Brief of the United States 10/29/13
Mount Holly Joint Appendix Pt. 1 6/17/13
Mount Holly Joint Appendix Pt. 2 6/17/13
Economic Justice | Housing Discrimination
Click here to read LDF's amicus brief.
Mount Holly v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc., which the Supreme Court agreed to hear in 2013, would have tested whether our nation’s commitment to ensuring that all families have a fair opportunity to find a good place to call home will continue.
In Mount Holly, the Court would have reviewed a key provision of the Fair Housing Act, which is our nation’s key tool to eradicate housing discrimination and promote more inclusive neighborhoods.
Yet, as our recent economic crisis has starkly revealed, predatory lending and other discriminatory practices continue to deny housing opportunities to people of color and isolate minority communities. This case came at a particularly critical time as African-American families struggle to overcome the devastating effects of the recession on homeownership and wealth.
In its amicus brief, LDF urged the Court to endorse the long-standing consensus that the “disparate impact” standard can be used to enforce the Fair Housing Act. “Disparate impact” occurs when government or private actors unjustifiably pursue practices that have a disproportionately harmful effect on communities of color and other groups protected by the Fair Housing Act. This standard is often used in challenging discrimination in mortgage lending, homeowners’ insurance, exclusionary zoning, redevelopment, and demolition of public housing.
If all plaintiffs had to prove discriminatory intent, the majority of housing practices that disadvantage African Americans and Latinos would be left unchallenged. By focusing on the consequences of unfair housing practices, the disparate impact standard often helps screen out discrimination that is intentional, yet pernicious. Equally important, it eliminates practices that may be neutral on their face but nevertheless make the effects of prior racial discrimination durable.
As the United States has emphasized in a brief filed in this case, all eleven federal appellate courts that have addressed the issue have concluded that the Fair Housing Act prohibits public and private housing practices that have an unjustified and disproportionately harmful effect on racial minorities. In February 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Development issued final regulations that similarly confirm the long-standing understanding among federal agencies that the Fair Housing Act does not require proof of intent to discriminate. For LDF's statement applauding HUD for issuing these regulations, see here.
Despite the consensus among federal courts and federal agencies, the Township of Mount Holly, New Jersey claimed that Congress intended for the Fair Housing Act to prohibit only actions that were proven to be intentionally motivated by racial discrimination. The Township sought to overturn a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that a group of residents, called Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, could proceed with their fair housing suit against the Township.
The residents challenged the Township’s plan to demolish all of the existing homes in the only neighborhood in the Township that was predominantly occupied by African Americans and Latinos. Many neighborhood residents are homeowners who have lived in their homes for years. The Township proposed to replace those homes with more expensive housing that the neighborhood’s current homeowners and renters cannot afford. The residents advocated that the Township should adopt a less heavy-handed alternative strategy of neighborhood improvement that would not entail the wholesale destruction and redevelopment of a once-stable minority community.
The parties reached a settlement agreement before the Supreme Court heard oral argument in this case. The case was dismissed on November 15, 2013
List of Briefs in Support of Respondents Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, et al. (Plaintiffs Below)
- NAACP Legal Defense Fund - Mount Holly Amicus Brief
- Amicus Brief of the United States
- Amicus Brief of 12 States (Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington)
- Amicus Brief of Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and 10 Other Former Top-Level HUD Officials
- Amicus Brief of American Planning Association and Housing Land Advocates
- Amicus Brief of Constitutional Accountability Center
- Amicus Brief of Current and Former Members of Congress
- Amicus Brief of 61 Housing Scholars
- Amicus Brief of National Community Land Trust Network
- Amicus Brief of National Fair Housing Alliance, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and Asian Real Estate Association of America
- Amicus Brief of Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, et al.
- Amicus Brief of Opportunity Agenda and Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), et al.
- Amicus Brief of ACLU, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Community Reinvestment Coalition, National Consumer Law Center, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, National Housing Law Project, Public Justice, and National Women's Law Center
- Amicus Brief of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
- Amicus Brief of Legal Momentum, et al.
- Amicus Brief of New York City Bar Association (Committees on Civil Rights and Administrative Law)
- Amicus Brief of Empower DC
- Amicus Brief of Sociologists, Social and Organizational Psychologists, and Legal Scholars
- Amicus Brief of San Francisco, Atlanta, Flint, New Haven, Philadelphia, Toledo, King County (Washington), and the City of Seattle Office for Civil Rights