In one of the myriad unexplained “special provisions” buried deep in the its version of the 2016-17 budget, the North Carolina Senate takes the remarkable and destructive step of repealing the state Fair Housing Act. As Sarah Ovaska-Few reported last week:

“The provision, which would repeal the State Fair Housing Act and shut down the state office that investigates discrimination complaints, was buried deep in the 500-plus budget (pages 390-391) that was made public and quickly passed the chamber last week.

The elimination of the state anti-discrimination measures got no attention during debates when the budget passed the Republican-controlled Senate last Thursday.

The move to repeal the state’s Fair Housing Act would also eliminate the N.C. Human Relations Commission, which is funded partly with federal funds and tasked with investigating and pursuing legal claims of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability when it comes to housing, employment and civil rights violations.”

One can only hope that this outrageous provision gets deep-sixed in the negotiations over the final budget. And if conferees need any reminders about the continued relevance of fair housing laws in 2015 North Carolina, they might want to check out yesterday’s announcement from the good folks at Legal Aid of North Carolina detailing the terms of a settlement in a fair housing case involving demands of sex for receipt of housing vouchers brought in Scotland County.

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Supreme courtThe Supreme Court issued its first order list of the term this morning, with no decision yet on the seven pending same-sex marriage petitions.

The Court did take 11 new cases though, including a housing discrimination case out of Texas, a redistricting case out of Arizona and a campaign finance case out of Florida.

The housing case, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., raises the question of whether disparate impact claims can be asserted under the Fair Housing Act.  It is the third such case the Court has taken in the past three years. The two previous cases settled before the justices could rule on the “disparate impact” question — Mt. Holly in 2013 and  Magner v. Gallagher in 2012.

The redistricting case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, involves that state’s use of a commission (as opposed to its legislature) to adopt congressional districts.

And the campaign finance case, Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, asks whether a state judicial conduct rule prohibiting judges from personally soliciting campaign funds violates the First Amendment.

As  Adam Liptak noted in Sunday’s New York Times, writing about judges on the campaign trail:

Thirty of the states that elect judges ban such personal requests. Every state supreme court to address the bans has said they are justified by the need to protect the integrity of the judiciary and public confidence in the judicial system.

But federal appeals courts are split on the issue. Four of them, collectively covering 23 states, have struck down solicitation bans. In May, for instance, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco,struck down Arizona’s ban, at least as applied to candidates for judicial office who are not yet judges.

This is not a concern in North Carolina, however, because the code of judicial conduct here expressly allows judges to personally solicit campaign funds.


Mt. Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, the case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court which addresses the question of whether a party can establish a discriminatory housing practice under the Fair Housing Act by showing that minorities have been disproportionately affected (the “disparate impact” test) — as opposed to showing an intent to discriminate — is nearing a settlement. is reporting that the parties have reached a tentative settlement, with signatures awaiting. If completed before Dec. 4, the parties will not have to proceed with argument before the high court on that date.

Read more about the case here.


The Supreme Court agreed today to decide whether, under the Fair Housing Act, proof that a residential property practice had a disparate impact on a particular group suffices for a claim of discrimination, or whether challengers must prove instead intent to discriminate.

In the case, Township of Mount Holly v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action — which will be argued in the fall — African-American and Hispanic residents of a neighborhood pegged for demolition and redevelopment in Mount Holly, N.J., sued to block the project, saying it targeted a predominantly minority area.

As noted here , the housing act does not explicitly cover disparate impact claims, unlike other anti-discrimination laws.  The outcome could affect other laws as well, including one that prohibits discrimination in lending and is enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.