…There’s nothing fair about it. I’ve got a post at Cato about yesterday’s important Supreme Court victory for the Left in which Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four liberals to hold that current federal law allows housing suits based on “disparate impact” theories. I explain why pundits are being silly when they claim that the Court “saved” the Fair Housing Act or that a contrary ruling would have “gutted” it, and why Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas were right in their dissents to spotlight the shaky basis of the theory in the statutory text, going back to the original disparate-impact case, Griggs v. Duke Power.
True, Kennedy did throw a sop or two about how courts applying disparate impact need to avoid pressuring actors toward the potentially unconstitutional result of quotas. Although some consider these bits of wording significant, I suspect that will mean about as much as similar sops that the Court has thrown over the years about avoiding quotas in employment and education, i.e., not much. Others, such as Cory Andrews of WLF, point to Kennedy language suggesting (on what statutory basis is not entirely clear) that disparate impact scrutiny might be limited to “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary” practices, a narrowness of approach not seen in other disparate-impact contexts. How administrable such a standard might prove, or how much litigation will be needed before it is clarified, is anyone’s guess.
Some further background on Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project: SCOTUSBlog, Cato’s brief in the case and earlier coverage by Ilya Shapiro and company here and here, and my podcast.