Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Conyers & Nadler Urge Supreme Court to Preserve Critical Legal Tool in the Fight Against Housing and Lending Discrimination

Members File Bipartisan Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Garden Citizens in Action

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. At the heart of this case is whether disparate impact – a method of proving discrimination by showing that policies or practices are discriminatory in application even if neutral on their face – can be used to enforce the Fair Housing Act, federal legislation that prohibits housing and lending discrimination. In their amicus brief, Reps. Conyers and Nadler argue in favor of disparate impact, citing extensive legislative history demonstrating that Congress intended to reach all forms of discrimination and chose language to accomplish this goal.

Upon filing the amicus brief, Reps. Conyers and Nadler issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.): “As our country went through a turbulent period in the fight for civil rights, I championed and voted in favor of the landmark Fair Housing Act in 1968. We passed this historic law, which came on the heels of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, understanding that we needed to reach and prohibit decades of discriminatory policies and practices. That is why we outlawed both intentional acts of discrimination as well as practices that, while seemingly neutral on their face, have the same discriminatory effect.  In the forty-five years since its passage – including in the recent $335 million settlement of Countrywide Financial’s predatory lending practices during the housing boom – disparate impact standards, which account for practices that have a discriminatory effect, have been used to enforce the Fair Housing Act’s promise of equal opportunity for all. Disparate impact remains a key civil rights enforcement tool, and I hope that this vital standard emerges stronger from this legal challenge.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.): “Unfortunately, discrimination in housing and housing-related lending remains a major problem in this country.  During the recent housing boom and bust, companies like Countrywide Financial charged minority applicants with higher interest rates and steered them into costly subprime mortgages.  There, the Justice Department successfully used disparate impact theory – as it has for several decades, during both Republican and Democratic administrations – to challenge this unlawful practice.  The Mount Holly case jeopardizes this key enforcement tool and puts at risk the progress our nation has made regarding housing discrimination.  We urge the Court to preserve disparate impact theory, and help ensure that the promise of equal housing opportunity becomes a reality for all.”
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