Oral argument: Feb. 29, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (Sept. 1, 2010)
CIVIL RIGHTS, FAIR HOUSING ACT, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, DISPARATE IMPACT
Thomas J. Gallagher, together with other owners and former owners of rental properties, sued the City of St. Paul, Minnesota for violating the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discriminatory housing practices. Gallagher claimed that the City’s aggressive and targeted enforcement of city housing codes against rental units reduced the availability of low-income rentals, with a disparate impact upon African-Americans. The Eighth Circuit held that Gallagher stated a valid FHA claim under the disparate impact theory. St. Paul appeals, arguing that, because the FHA requires evidence of discriminatory intent, Gallagher’s disparate impact claim is insufficient to establish a violation under the Act. Gallagher contends that, given the Court’s prior findings regarding disparate impact claims under the similarly-worded Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII, disparate impact claims are cognizable under the FHA. The Supreme Court’s decision may affect the extent to which city officials can use ordinances, code enforcement actions, and other land-use regulations to regulate low-income neighborhoods.