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Settlement reached in Supreme Court housing discrimination case

The US Supreme Court [official website] will not hear a case regarding racial discrimination in home sales and rentals after the matter was settled out of court on Wednesday. Originally scheduled for oral argument December 4, the case of Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. [SCOTUSblog materials] presented the issue of whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act [text] makes it unlawful "[t]o refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer ... or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin." Petitioners sought to redevelop a blighted housing development that was disproportionately occupied by low and moderate income minorities. The redevelopment sought to replace the blighted housing with new market rate housing which was unaffordable to the current residents within the blighted area. Wednesday evening, the local government in the New Jersey community agreed to settle [Philadelphia Inquirer report] the case. The Township Council voted unanimously to adopt resolutions concluding the case. Both sides will withdraw their case in court, an automatic result upon settlement.

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit had previously reversed the district court's decision when it found [opinion] that the respondents presented a prima facie case under the Fair Housing Act despite the fact that there was no evidence of discriminatory intent and no segregative effect. The Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] to hear the case in June.

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