12-18-2017  8:43 am      •     
MLK Breakfast
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

NEWS BRIEFS

Exhibit Explores the Legacy of Portland Bird Watchers

Dedicated bird watchers catapult a conservationist movement ...

Special Call for Stories about the Spanish Flu

Genealogical Forum of Oregon seeks stories from the public about one of history's most lethal outbreaks ...

Joint Office of Homeless Services Announces Severe Weather Strategy

Those seeking shelter should call 211 or visit 211.org. Neighbors needed to volunteer, donate cold-weather apparel ...

Q&A with Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams

A conversation on diversity and the tech industry ...

City Announces Laura John as Tribal Liason

Laura John brings an extensive background in tribal advocacy and community engagement to the city of Portland ...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

OPINION

Don’t Delay, Sign-up for Affordable Healthcare Today

The deadline to enroll or modify healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act is December 15. ...

The Skanner Editorial: Alabama Voters Must Reject Moore

Allegations of predatory behavior are troubling – and so is his resume ...

Payday Lenders Continue Attack on Consumer Protections

Charlene Crowell of the Center for Responsible Lending writes that two bills that favor predatory lenders has received bipartisan...

Hundreds Rallied for Meek Mill, but What About the Rest?

Lynette Monroe, a guest columnist for the NNPA Newswire, talks about Meek Mill, the shady judge that locked him up and mass...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

ENTERTAINMENT

Interns run across the plaza of the Supreme Court in Washington
Sam Hananel, Associated Press

The Supreme Court handed a surprising victory to the Obama administration and civil rights groups on Thursday when it upheld a key tool used for more than four decades to fight housing discrimination.

The justices ruled 5-4 that federal housing laws prohibit seemingly neutral practices that harm minorities, even without proof of intentional discrimination.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote, joined the court's four liberal members in upholding the use of so-called "disparate impact" cases.

The ruling is a win for housing advocates who argued that the 1968 Fair Housing Act allows challenges to race-neutral policies that have a negative impact on minority groups. The Justice Department has used disparate impact lawsuits to win more than $500 million in legal settlements from companies accused of bias against black and Hispanic customers.

In upholding the tactic, the Supreme Court preserved a legal strategy that has been used for more than 40 years to attack discrimination in zoning laws, occupancy rules, mortgage lending practices and insurance underwriting. Every federal appeals court to consider it has upheld the practice, though the Supreme Court had never previously ruled.

Civil rights groups had tried years to keep the issue out of the Supreme Court, fearing that conservatives would end the strategy.

Writing for the majority, Kennedy said language in the housing law banning discrimination "because of race" allows for disparate impact cases. He said such lawsuits "may prevent segregated housing patterns that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping."

"The court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act's continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society," Kennedy said.

Kennedy was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The ruling is a defeat for banks, insurance companies and other business groups that claimed such lawsuits — often based on statistics — are not explicitly allowed under the landmark housing law that sought to eliminate segregation that has long existed in residential housing.

Business groups complained that using disparate impact to expose every decision to legal challenge is unfair if those practices are based on sound underwriting and compliance with federal regulations.

In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito said disparate impact was not specifically allowed in the text of the housing law. He warned that the tactic can also result in perverse outcomes, such as a recent Minnesota case where a landlord claimed a city's efforts to make him combat rat infestation and unsanitary conditions in low income housing would cause an increase in rent.

"Something has gone badly awry when a city can't even make slumlords kill rats without fear of a lawsuit," Alito said.

Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The case involved an appeal from Texas officials accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by awarding federal tax credits in a way that kept low-income housing out of white neighborhoods.

A Dallas-based fair housing group, Inclusive Communities Project Inc., said that even if there was no motive to discriminate, the government's policies still harmed black residents. The effect, the group claimed, was perpetuating segregated neighborhoods and denying blacks a chance to move into areas with better schools and lower crime.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in Texas said the group could use statistics to show that the effect of policies used by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs had a negative impact on black residents.

Texas officials appealed, saying it was unfair to have to justify or change policies that don't facially discriminate. While disparate impact has been used routinely in employment discrimination cases, they said such claims were not expressly written into the housing law. They argued that allowing them would essentially force them to make race-conscious decisions to avoid liability.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said disparate impact remains "an all-too-necessary mechanism for rooting out discrimination in housing and lending."

"Bolstered by this important ruling, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act with every tool at its disposal - including challenges based on unfair and unacceptable discriminatory effects."

Both the Obama administration and civil rights groups have tried for years to keep the issue away from the Supreme Court, fearing that conservative justices wanted to end the use of disparate impact lawsuits in housing cases. In fact, two similar cases out of Minnesota and New Jersey previously had reached the court in recent years, but those cases were settled or strategically withdrawn just weeks before oral argument.

Yet the court took up the Texas case last year despite the fact that there was no split among lower courts over the issue. That led to major worries for the NAACP and other civil rights groups that the court was prepared to end the strategy.

In one recent disparate impact case, Wells Fargo agreed in 2012 to pay $175 million to settle charges that its independent brokers charged higher fees and rates to black and Hispanic borrowers than whites who had similar credit scores. The Justice Department also accused the lender of steering minorities into risky subprime mortgages more often than whites.

Like most disparate impact cases, the allegations in the Wells Fargo case were based on statistical data rather than any proof of intentional discrimination. Wells Fargo agreed to settle the case without admitting any wrongdoing. A similar case against Bank of America in 2011 netted a record $335 million settlement.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told reporters outside the court that the housing law was critical in bridging the nation's racial divide, especially in light of the shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

"Anyone who has been paying attention in the last week knows that we can no longer afford to live the way we have as two separate bifurcated parts of this country," Ifill said.

 

___

Associated Press writer Connie Cass contributed to this report.

Oregon Lottery
Health Effects of Smoking
Calendar

MLK breakfast 2018 300x100

Photo Gallery

Photos and slide shows of local events

Family Care Health