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fair housing

If you’ll drop Magner v. Gallagher, your case against us before the Supreme Court, we’ll drop this other big case we’ve filed against you, the Department of Justice told the city of St. Paul, Minnesota. And thus the government averted an embarrassing high court opinion reining in some of its most avant-garde lending-discrimination theories [American Banker, Kevin Funnell/Bank Lawyer's Blog, WSJ, Hans Bader, Ted Frank]

July 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 20, 2012

  • Congress, HUD face off on “disparate impact” in housing and housing finance [WSJ edit, Clegg/NRO] Wells Fargo says it didn’t base loans on race but will pay $175 million to end federal probe [Reuters]
  • Maryland vs. Virginia: if only there were a government that was consistent about favoring liberty [John Walters, Maryland Public Policy Institute]
  • British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal levies $3000 against husband-and-wife owners of bed-and-breakfast who canceled reservation of gay couple based on religious objections [Religion Clause, The Province] UK: “‘Gay flatmate wanted’ ads break equality laws” [Telegraph] See our earlier coverage of the Ninth Circuit Roommate.com case here and here.
  • “Lifeguard fired for saving drowning person — outside his designated zone.” [NBC Miami via @commongood]
  • “Do you want to be informed about the constant, infuriating corporate welfare for professional sports owners? Follow FieldOfSchemes.com” [Matt Welch]
  • Negligent entrustment lawsuit against parents who let 33 year old daughter drive car yields $1.2 million in Tennessee [Knoxville News]
  • Pretrial and discovery: “New York state bar recommends federal litigation reforms” [Reuters]

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Kevin Funnell at Bank Lawyers Blog is a bit cynical about the Department of Justice’s headline-ready threats of enforcement action:

[The DOJ claims] appear to be based upon consumer advocates’ claims that the bank takes better care of foreclosed-upon real estate it owns in neighborhoods where white people live than it does in areas where minorities live. I suspect that the bank will assert that (a) any rational real estate owner is only going to invest money in a piece of real estate where the owner has a realistic chance of recouping that investment through a higher sales price, (b) that such recoupment decisions are made on a property-by-property basis based upon objective data like recent comparable sales prices and fair market valuations, (c) that the economic reality-driven facts of life are that many more such properties are located in majority-white neighborhoods than in minority neighborhoods, and (d) there has been no intent to discriminate, merely to minimize losses…. As we’ve previously noted, the DOJ is on a jihad against lenders based upon “disparate impact” theories that the DOJ knows, in its heart-of-hearts, are highly fragile when exposed to the light of logic, the kind of logic applied by the US Supreme Court. Justice will likely pursue Wells Fargo and try to squeeze some dough out of it before the highest court eventually shuts down this racket.

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April 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 23, 2012

  • Fearful of adverse Supreme Court ruling, Department of Justice said to have exercised pressure on city of St. Paul to buckle in housing-disparate-impact case [Kevin Funnell]
  • Justice Janice Rogers Brown: we can dream, can’t we? [Weigel] The Brown/Sentelle opinion everyone’s talking about, questioning rational basis review of economic regulation [Hettinga v. U.S., milk regulations; Fisher, Kerr]
  • Claim: “The Bachelor” TV franchise discriminates on basis of race [Jon Hyman]
  • Chicago sold off municipal parking garages. Good. It also promised to disallow proposals for private parking nearby. Not good [Urbanophile]
  • Bad day in court for Zimmerman prosecution [Tom Maguire, more, Merritt]
  • “I want some systematic contacts wherever your long arm can reach” — hot-’n’-heavy CivPro music video satire [ConcurOp, language]
  • Federal judge dismisses charge against man who advocated jury nullification outside courthouse [Lynch, Sullum, earlier]

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April 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 18, 2012

  • “MPAA: you can infringe copyright just by embedding a video” [Timothy Lee, Ars Technica]
  • NYC: fee for court-appointed fire department race-bias monitor is rather steep [Reuters]
  • Larry Schonbron on VW class action [Washington Times] Watch out, world: “U.S. class action lawyers look abroad” [Reuters] Deborah LaFetra, “Non-injury class actions don’t belong in federal court” [PLF]
  • Will animal rights groups have to pay hefty legal bill after losing Ringling Bros. suit? [BLT]
  • You shouldn’t need a lobbyist to build a house [Mead, Yglesias]
  • “Astorino and Westchester Win Against Obama’s HUD” [Brennan, NRO] My two cents [City Journal] Why not abolish HUD? [Kaus]
  • “Community organized breaking and entering,” Chicago style [Kevin Funnell; earlier, NYC]

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The Ninth Circuit properly vindicates the constitutional principle of freedom of association in a clash with housing discrimination law. [Rigel Oliveri, Washington Post]

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February 22 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 22, 2012

  • Florida courts allow probe of finances of MDs who treat many injury plaintiffs [Dolman Law Group; Crable v. State Farm]
  • Booster clubs: “Does Title IX Reach Voluntary Donations?” [Joshua Thompson, PLF, earlier here, here]
  • Freedom to Discriminate in Choice of Roommates: 9th Circuit case of Fair Housing Council v. Roommate.com [Eugene Volokh; related from David Bernstein h/t commenter wfjag]
  • PI firm employee “disliked sending clients to [chiropractors] because insurers were more reluctant to settle those claims” [ABA Journal]
  • “Bill introduced to de-criminalize the Lacey Act” [Paul Enzinna, PoL; earlier on Gibson Guitar and wood imports here, here] More: Reason.tv on the raids [Balko]
  • “Australia: A Cautionary Tale of Litigation Financing?” [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Constitutional law book review: Jay Wexler, “The Odd Clauses” [Greenfield, Lowering the Bar]

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In 2005 Jack and Sandra Biegel purchased a unit in Long Island’s Woodbury Gardens, which had a no-pet policy. The next year they acquired a miniature schnauzer to assist with Sandra’s multiple ailments, which included depression and strained breathing. She died the next year. Now the federal government is taking Jack’s side against the co-op in its effort to enforce its rules. [NY Daily News]

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Steve Malanga on New Jersey’s perennially activist Supreme Court [City Journal]. We’ve periodically discussed the court’s lamentable jurisprudence in its Abbott (school finance redistribution) and Mount Laurel (towns given quotas to build low-income housing) decisions. The court has also nullified constitutional limitations on borrowing by the state.

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Dogs in the dorms

by Walter Olson on December 1, 2011

The Justice Department has sued the University of Nebraska-Kearney and its regents and employees for allegedly “denying reasonable accommodation requests by students with psychological or emotional disabilities seeking to live with emotional assistance animals in university housing.” [Disability Law]

More/update: Inside Higher Ed.

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November 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 14, 2011

September 6 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 6, 2011

March 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 23, 2011

  • New Yorker suing boss for $2M because working in New Jersey caused him “anguish” [Biz Insider]
  • British lawyer’s libel threats impede UK publication of Paul Offit vaccine book [Respectful Insolence]
  • Lawsuit settlement leads to Florida push to curb tobacco discounter [WSJ; background, Jeremy Bulow]
  • Allegation: attorneys made personal use of cy pres fund in Armenian genocide settlement [PoL]
  • “Telecommuting employees raise special wage and hour issues” [Hyman]
  • UK bias cops wonder whether to ban gay-preferred along with gay-not-preferred guesthouses [Ed West, U.K. Telegraph]
  • Copyright mills: “Local law firm wants to defend people sued by local law firm” [TBD] Related: [Citizen Media Law, Coleman]
  • “Top 10 Reasons to Not Open a Bar or Restaurant in NYC” [NY Enterprise Report]

November 5 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2010

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A woman “posted an advertisement for a Christian roommate on her local church’s bulletin board.” Someone who saw it denounced her anonymously to the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan which proceeded to file a civil rights complaint against her to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Nancy Haynes, executive director of the housing center, calls the woman’s notice “a clear violation on its face;” while the Fair Housing Act does not subject actual choice of roommates to penalties, it forbids advertisements expressing a preference.

The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan might ask for an initial reimbursement of $300 for time spent on the issue and training for the woman, in addition to pulling down the ad, Haynes said.

“Our interest really lies in her getting some training so that this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

[WOOD via Amy Alkon]

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The New York Post has now picked up a slightly shortened version of my City Journal piece on the housing lawsuit that contributed to a voter revolt in Westchester (cross-posted from Point of Law).

P.S. The Weekly Standard “Scrapbook” feature discusses the piece, as do John Derbyshire and Ron Coleman. And reader Paul Rath writes: “We face the same issue at the other end of the state, near Buffalo. Unfortunately, we have the same race-baiting and over-simplified arguments in our press here as well.” For more on how towns expose themselves to litigation if they attempt to earmark sub-market-rate housing for local residents or workers, see this Oct. 23 New York Times report on Connecticut.

I’ve got a new piece up at City Journal on Tuesday’s sensational Westchester County upset, in which GOP challenger Rob Astorino knocked off Andy Spano, the longtime Democratic incumbent county executive, by a convincing 58-42 percent margin. Taxes were a key issue, but so was the county’s consent to what was billed as a landmark housing-reform settlement in which it agreed to arm-twist affluent towns into accepting low-income housing. Many Westchester residents were wary of the potential consequences — and downright insulted when Spano suggested that to resist the lawsuit further would be to make the generally liberal-leaning county a “symbol of racism”.

The federally brokered settlement is itself of interest far beyond Westchester, if only as the occasion of a truly remarkable rhetorical flourish from an Obama Administration official, HUD deputy secretary Ron Sims: “It’s time to remove zip codes as a factor in the quality of life in America.” It was also hailed at once in some quarters as a model for similar legal action against other suburban jurisdictions considered guilty of not being hospitable enough to low-income housing. The Westchester voter revolt, I argue in the piece, may serve as a signal to local officials elsewhere to fight, rather than roll over, when the social engineers and their lawyers come knocking (cross-posted from Point of Law).

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A long-running controversy pits some elected officials and townspeople of Framingham, Mass., west of Boston, against a social service agency that has proposed the town as a site for halfway houses and other residential facilities for recovering addicts, the homeless and others. Two years ago things turned particularly unpleasant:

…[South Middlesex Opportunity Council] filed suit in federal court this week demanding damages not just from town officials, but from citizens who have dared criticize the agency and challenge its plans.

SMOC’s 99-page complaint [which alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act, federal Rehabilitation Act, Americans With Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act -- ed.] piles up charges against selectmen and planning board members not just in their official capacity, but as individuals. It targets town employees, both named and unnamed. It calls for damages against four Framingham Town Meeting members and two citizens for comments made on a private Web site and e-mails distributed on a privately-operated mailing list.

The ACLU of Massachusetts expressed unease at the naming of private citizens as defendants over their advocacy efforts. While the lawsuit has been narrowed somewhat in the two years since then, it continues to engender much acrimony as it drags on:

Aggravating the ill will is a recent revelation that a man charged with shooting a local police officer had lived in a home run by the agency, the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, or SMOC.

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