Supreme Court Long Conference Results Are In!

Last Monday’s Supreme Court “long conference” did not disappoint.  The Supreme Court granted a total of 11 petitions.Supreme Court3  At least four of those cases are relevant to local government.

Housing discrimination.  For the third time the Court has accepted a case involving this issue of whether disparate-impact (as opposed to disparate treatment) claims can be brought under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).  It remains to be seen if Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project will settle like its predecessors, Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Citizens in Action and Magner v. Gallagher.  The 11 federal circuits that have decided this issue have all held that disparate-impact claims are actionable.  The Supreme Court is expected to rule to the contrary.  Local government have been sued for disparate impact under the FHA and have sued other entities.

Fourth Amendment search.  In its second Fourth Amendment case of the term, Rodriguez v. United States, the Court will decide whether a police officer violates the Fourth Amendment by extending (for just a few minutes) an already-completed traffic stop for a dog sniff.  The Eighth Circuit held the search in this case was reasonable.  The police officer waited seven or eight minutes after the traffic stop was completed before deploying his sniffer dog because he wanted backup given that there were two people in the stopped car.

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Ninth Circuit Denies En Banc Review in Newport Beach Case

The Ninth Circuit has denied the sua sponte call for en banc review in Pacific Shore Properties, LLC v. City of Newport Beach, No. 11-55460, a case that we have written about previously hereNinthCircuitJudge O’Scannlain, joined by Judges Tallman, Callahan, Bea, and Ikuta, filed a dissental, that is, a dissent from the denial of en banc review. It appears to be telegraphing that the Supreme Court should consider the case:

The panel’s opinion in these consolidated cases invents an entirely unprecedented theory of actionable government discrimination: sinister intent in the enactment of facially neutral legislation can generate civil liability without evidence of discriminatory effect. Such unwarranted expansion Continue reading


Supreme Court Housing-Discrimination Case Settles

One of the significant Supreme Court cases affecting local governments this term has been resolved through settlement. The case is Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action. It asked whether a plaintiff bringing a claim under the Fair Housing Act must show intentional discrimination, or whether a “disparate impact” is sufficient.

This marks the second time that the Supreme Court has granted certiorari on the question but then not been able to resolve it. Magner v. Gallagher was also settled last year.


Ninth Circuit: City Not Entitled to Summary Judgment on Housing Discrimination Claims

GavelThe Ninth Circuit issued its decision Friday in Pacific Shores Properties, LLC v. City of Newport Beach, No. 11-55460. In the case, plaintiffs alleged that a City ordinance violated the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the Equal Protection Clause because the ordinance had the practical effect of prohibiting new group homes for recovering alcoholics and drug users from opening in most residential districts. Although the district court had granted summary judgment for the City, the Ninth Circuit today reversed that decision. It concluded that the plaintiffs had created a triable issue of fact as to whether the City enacted the ordinance to discriminate against them, and whether its enactment and enforcement harmed them.

I wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the League of California Cities, which urged the court to find that evidence of arguably discriminatory intent or motive in adopting a city ordinance was not, standing alone, enough to invalidate a facially neutral ordinance. But, the court found the district court should have taken into account circumstantial evidence of discriminatory motivation—as expressed by individual council members participating in the decision—when reviewing what was otherwise a facially neutral ordinance restricting group homes. It also found, among other things, that the plaintiffs were not required to identify similarly situated individuals who were treated better than those subjected to the ordinance.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Brian Turner (creative-commons license, no changes made).


Ninth Circuit: Local Government’s Tenant-Protection Program Is Constitutional.

9th Circuit: Landlords do not have a viable constitutional claim against City housing program

9th Circuit: Landlords do not have a viable constitutional claim against City housing program

Your community’s housing conditions are in crisis. Too many landlords ignore codes. They disregard tenants’ concerns. And their properties are hardly habitable. But they continue to collect rent—from tenants with little capacity to protect themselves.

So your local government fashions an innovative program, one that empowers tenants. It allows tenants living in troubled properties to withhold a portion of their rent and to use it for needed repairs.

Landlords sue. They claim that your program violates their federal substantive due process rights. Do they have a winning constitutional argument?

Not according to the Ninth Circuit, which ruled Monday in Sylvia Landfield Trust v. City of Los Angeles, No. 11-55904, slip op. (Sept. 9, 2013), that the City of Los Angeles’s Rent Escrow Account Program is constitutional.

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Regulating Illegal Immigration With Local Housing Ordinances

Local government regulation of immigration through housing ordinances has divided the courts.

Local government regulation of immigration through housing ordinances has divided the courts.

Can a local government prohibit the leasing of housing to persons who entered the United States illegally?

Since June, three federal courts of appeals have tackled that difficult question—and reached different results.

The decisions present a range of perspectives on whether local housing ordinances “conflict” with federal law or intrude upon a “field” reserved to the federal government. They highlight the uncertain contours of the preemption doctrine—and demonstrate the risk facing any local government that regulates in this space.

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