UC Law Journal of Race and Economic Justice


In 2013, the United States Supreme Court was set to hear oral arguments in Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. However, weeks before the hearing, the parties settled. Despite the settlement, the arguments raised by plaintiffs and amici remain valuable. Mt. Holly represented the second time in two years that the Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the Fair Housing Act of 1968 ("FHA") allows plaintiffs to bring claims challenging official housing decisions and policies that are not necessarily the result of intentional discrimination, but have a disproportionately harmful impact on minorities or other groups protected by law. This article is an adaptation of an amicus brief co-written by the Equal Justice Society and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati on behalf of social scientists and legal scholars. It uses Mt. Holly as an illustrative example of implicit racial bias and its resulting harm on minority communities. Specifically, the article illustrates how implicit racial bias skews perceptions of people of color in neighborhoods and how these biased perceptions affect decision-making-in municipal land use, displacement, redevelopment, and rehabilitation, and in housing sales and rentals-leading to significant harm to minority residents and homeseekers. These harms would have no remedy absent the disparate impact standard. While the parties in Mt. Holly ultimately settled, this issue is likely to come before the Supreme Court again, and the research discussed herein would be relevant to the Court's analysis.

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