January 24, 2013

Comeuppance

By Joshua P. Thompson Senior Attorney

Remember Magner v. Gallagher, the case out of Minnesota that challenged whether there was a disparate impact cause of action under the Fair Housing Act?  [Note: There isn’t.] Remember when the Obama Administration pressured the City of St. Paul to voluntarily dismiss Magner after it had been granted certiorari by the Supreme Court?  All we knew at the time, was that the Obama Administration struck some kind of backdoor deal to get St. Paul to dismiss its case.  Well, the facts are starting to trickle in, and they are not pretty.  It seems that the Administration promised to abandon viable claims it had against St. Paul under a different statute, if the city would drop its Supreme Court case.

This quid-pro-quo arrangement — where both the Obama Administration and St. Paul abandoned viable claims in exchange for the ability to continue to violate the law — didn’t sit right with some U.S. Senators.  Now, they are demanding answers.  And they won’t confirm any (former) Administration officials to judicial vacancies until they get some.

If that wasn’t enough of an embarrassment for the Administration, less than six months after the St. Paul fiasco, in came a brand new case asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether there is a disparate impact cause of action under the Fair Housing Act.  [Unsurprisingly, when DOJ exceeded its authority under the Fair Housing Act, it wasn’t just St. Paul that got upset.]  While we are still waiting to hear whether the Supreme Court will grant certiorari in that case — it has asked the Solicitor General to file a brief — we are hopeful that it will strike down DOJ’s interpretation of the Fair Housing Act once and for all. In the meantime, its comforting to see some Administration officials get their comeuppance for their underhanded tricks in Magner.

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