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Jan-31-2012 16:45printcomments

California Joins 11 States Filing Brief Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Against Discriminatory Housing Practices

Oregon's Attorney General is also part of the effort.

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(SACRAMENTO) - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has joined 11 other state attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court in Magner v. Gallagher to rule that federal anti-discrimination law can be enforced in cases where a housing or mortgage policy appears neutral on its surface but has a discriminatory effect.

"Segregation in housing and barriers to equal opportunity remain a great concern for communities throughout the country. Disparate impact causes of action are needed to respond to contemporary forms of bias and to eliminate practices and policies that perpetuate segregated housing patterns," the amicus brief states.

This case involves a policy of the City of St. Paul, Minnesota to remedy "problem properties" by targeting low-income renter-occupied properties for housing-code violations, condemnations and evictions. In 2004 and 2005, a group of current and former owners of rental properties challenged the city's policy, contending that these practices had a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities and, in particular, African Americans. African Americans made up 60 to 70 percent of the city's low-income renters, while they made up approximately 12 percent of the population of St. Paul.

"For more than four decades, the Fair Housing Act has been a key tool for rooting out discrimination in housing and residential financing," Attorney General Harris said. "Minority homeowners and renters in California, who have been disproportionately impacted by the housing and mortgage crisis, deserve access to housing without facing discrimination and other deceptive practices."

The plaintiffs challenged the city's policy in federal court under the Fair Housing Act, which is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability. In 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that housing policies that disproportionately impact protected groups violate the Fair Housing Act and are subject to disparate-impact scrutiny. The City appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments in the matter in February 2012.

A bipartisan group of attorneys general joining California in this brief represent Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah and West Virginia.

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Anonymous January 31, 2012 6:04 pm (Pacific time)

Loans are generally based on income and ability to pay back the loan. It is also job-related, that is did you get a job that allows you to afford housing loans. This begs the questions, that is, did you drop out of school? Did you have children out of wedlock? Have a criminal record? Or have any other "choices" that precluded you from preparing yourself for the job market? We already have the "subprime loan" fiasco which was predicated on giving loans to credit unworthy people. This lawsuit is really just more of the same. What you can clearly see is that people who prepared for the job market have jobs, homes and are enjoying the benefits that come from hard work and making good choices...of all races and genders! There is direct correlation with poverty and bad choice making, like dropping out of school. Of course we are in a recession and the CBO reported today that "real unemployment" is above 10%, but we have a leaderless white house and the same can be said for the U.S. Senate, so until we have a complete change of power, don't expect any real change, just more lawsuits and fingerpointing by the real racists.

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