June 25, 2015
News media gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court awaiting decisions June 22.
In a June 25 majority opinion upholding a key interpretation of the federal Fair Housing Act, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy refers to scholarship by Tulane Law Professor Stacy Seicshnaydre (L '92).
The case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project involved whether government entities can be sued for housing policies that aren’t deliberately discriminatory but disproportionately harm minority groups without adequate justification.
Justice Anthony Kennedy cited work by Tulane Law Professor Stacy Seicshnaydre (L ’92) in the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25 ruling on the scope of the Fair Housing Act.
At issue was the use of federal tax credits in Dallas to perpetuate segregation and restrict development of affordable housing in white neighborhoods.
A 5-4 majority of justices said the FHA allows “disparate impact” claims to challenge such policies without having to prove officials intended to racially discriminate.
On page 18 of the majority opinion, Kennedy cites Seicshnaydre’s analysis of the court’s recent scrutiny of disparate-impact claims in her paper “Is Disparate Impact Having Any Impact? An Appellate Analysis of Forty Years of Disparate Impact Claims Under the Fair Housing Act,” published in the American University Law Review in 2013.
The case was sent back to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to sort out the underlying dispute, but the ruling was seen as an important civil rights victory. Congress passed the FHA shortly after the assassination of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was working to end segregation and unequal housing opportunities.
“The court today upheld the disparate-impact standard under the Fair Housing Act consistent with four decades of legal precedent, and strengthened the bipartisan commitment to equal housing opportunity reflected in the FHA’s enactment,” said Seicshnaydre, the William K. Christovich Associate Professor of Law. “Importantly, the court noted that ‘[m]uch progress remains to be made in our Nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation’ and said it ‘acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the Nation toward a more integrated society.’ ”
Seicshnaydre, director of Tulane’s Civil Litigation Clinic, is a volunteer member of the Inclusive Communities Project board.