Supreme Court to rule in housing discrimination case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in four cases Monday. In Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court limited the grant to Question 1: "Are disparate impact claims cognizable under the Fair Housing Act?" The Fair Housing Act [text] makes it unlawful "[t]o refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer ... or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin." Petitioners sought to redevelop a blighted housing development that was disproportionately occupied by low and moderate income minorities. The redevelopment sought to replace the blighted housing with new market rate housing which was unaffordable to the current residents within the blighted area. Reversing the district court's decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found [opinion] that the respondents presented a prima facie case under the Fair Housing Act despite the fact that there was no evidence of discriminatory intent and no segregative effect.

In Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court limited the grant to the following question: "Whether Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) [text, PDF] immunity may be denied without a determination that the air carrier's disclosure was materially false." The ATSA requires airlines and their employees to report to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] any and all potential security threats to the nation's air transportation system. To encourage such reports, the ATSA provides a broad grant of immunity from suit, shielding airlines and their employees from all liability, including liability for state-law defamation. The only exception to this immunity is for reports made "with actual knowledge that the disclosure was false, inaccurate, or misleading" or "with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of that disclosure." In this case William Hoeper was employed as a pilot by Air Wisconsin. An Air Wisconsin manager reported Hoeper to the TSA as a possible threat after Heoper became angry during a certification test. Hoeper brought a defamation suit against Air Wisconsin in Colorado Court. The Supreme Court of Colorado held [opinion] that Air Wisconsin was not entitled to immunity and that the statements were false.

In Ray Haluch Gravel Co. v. Central Pension Fund of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Participating Employers [docket; cert. petition, PDF] a federal district court ruled on a breach-of-contract claim for damages. Just over a month later, it ruled on a discrete contractual claim for damages pleaded in the same complaint, which (a) sought to recoup pre-litigation (as well as litigation) collection expenses and fees and (b) was not contingent on being a "prevailing party" in litigation. The question presented is whether the first order is a "final decision" that must be appealed separately under 28 USC § 1291 [text], or whether instead a notice of appeal filed within 30 days of the second order brings the entire case before the court of appeals. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled [opinion] that an appeal filed within 30 days of the second ruling, but more than 30 days after the first ruling, was timely as to all issues.

Finally, in Law v. Siegel [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will decide whether the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit erred in allowing the bankruptcy trustee [opinion] to surcharge the debtor's constitutionally protected homestead property.

 

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