Supreme Court Proceedings
On Monday May 1, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court solidified the reach of federal housing law by ruling that cities can sue major banks for discriminatory lending practices that caused enormous and pervasive harm to low-income neighborhoods during the 2008 recession. As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the decision “gives city leaders a potentially powerful weapon against lenders, including those who were accused of predatory practices that triggered the foreclosure crisis after 2008.”
Until now, lawyers for the huge banks claimed that while forbidding racial discrimination, the Fair Housing Act only protected individuals who suffered discrimination, not cities. But in its 5-3 vote, the Supreme Court held that cities can be an “aggrieved person” who can sue over the impact of housing discrimination on the city’s finances. The Court also sent the case back to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings on causation. Justice Stephen G. Breyer cited 1970s-era rulings that interpreted the civil right laws broadly, including by allowing city officials to sue real estate agents who were turning away black and Latino home buyers.
The decision cleared the way for the city of Miami to sue Bank of America over allegations that it “intentionally targeted predatory practices at African-American and Latino neighborhoods,” which in turn led to “foreclosures and vacancies” that sharply reduced property tax revenues.
Lawyers for the involved banks had appealed earlier rulings in favor of the aggrieved cities, arguing the suits should be tossed out. But the Supreme Court justices disagreed.
“We conclude that the city’s financial injuries fall within the zone of interests that the Fair Housing Act protects,” Justice Breyer said in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
History of the Supreme Court’s Review of the Cases
In June 2016, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami (case number 15-1111) and Wells Fargo & Co. v. City of Miami (case number 15-1112) pertaining to the following questions:
BoA – (1) Whether, by limiting suit to “aggrieved person[s],” Congress required that a Fair Housing Act plaintiff plead more than just Article III injury-in-fact; and (2) whether proximate cause requires more than just the possibility that a defendant could have foreseen that the remote plaintiff might ultimately lose money through some theoretical chain of contingencies.
Wells – (1) Whether the term “aggrieved” in the Fair Housing Act imposes a zone-of-interests requirement more stringent than the injury-in-fact requirement of Article III; and (2) whether the City is an “aggrieved person” under the Fair Housing Act.
These cases have been consolidated and one hour of oral argument has been scheduled for November 8, 2016 at 10 am. The City of Miami will split time with the United States Government, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, which filed a brief in support of the City.
Oral Argument Before the Supreme Court
- Oral Argument Transcript, November 8, 2016
Briefs of Respondents
- Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami, Brief of Respondent City of Miami
- Wells Fargo & Co. v. City of Miami, Brief of Respondent City of Miami
Briefs of Amicus Curiae Supporting Respondents
- Brief of Current and Former Members of Congress as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent
- Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Respondent
- Brief of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the National Fair Housing Alliance, et al. as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent the City of Miami
- Brief of Housing Scholars as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent
- Brief of Amici Curiae Anita Trafficante, et al. in Support of Respondent
- Brief of National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, International City/County Management Association, and International Municipal Lawyers Association as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent
- Brief for Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, LatinoJustice PLRDEF, and Other Civil Rights and Immigrants’ Rights Groups as Amicus Curiae in Support of Respondents
- Brief of Amici Curiae AARP and AARP Foundation in Support of Respondent
- Brief of Amici Curiae Fraternal Order of Police, Miami Lodge 20, and Florida Professional Firefighters, Inc. in Support of Respondent
- Brief of Amicus Curiae NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., in Support of Respondent
- Brief of Constitutional Accountability Center as Amicus Curiae in Support of Respondent
- Brief Amicus Curiae of Urban Historian Leo Hollis in Support of Respondent
- Brief for the City and County of San Francisco, the City of Los Angeles, and 24 Other Jurisdictions as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondent City of Miami, Florida
Briefs of Petitioners
- Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami, Brief for Petitioners
- Wells Fargo & Co. v. City of Miami, Brief for Petitioners
Briefs of Amici Curiae Supporting Petitioners
- Brief of Amicus Curiae DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar in Support of Petitioners
- Brief for the CATO Institute as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners
- Brief of the American Bankers Association, et al., in Support of Petitioners
- Brief for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America as Amici Curiae Supporting Petitioners