Tag Archives: fair housing

Chief Justice Roberts quietly burns Scalia in the Obamacare decision – The Washington Post

Chief Justice Roberts quietly burns Scalia in the Obamacare decision – The Washington Post.

From the WaPo article:

The main question in the case is about the subsidies used to buy health insurance by people who otherwise can’t afford it. Roberts and Scalia disagree on whether Congress meant for the subsidies to be available through the federally run insurance marketplace set up under the law, as the Obama administration argued, or if Congress wanted to give subsidies only to people who bought insurance through an exchange operated by a state government, as the law’s opponents claimed.

Roberts agreed with the administration. He wrote that it was “implausible” for Congress to set up a system in which people who used the federal marketplace wouldn’t be able to get financial help buying insurance. Scalia disagreed. But, back in 2012, he had written that without subsidies, “the exchanges would not operate as Congress intended.”

And then there was this, from yesterday’s decision affirming the validity of the disparate impact theory of fair housing decision.  The majority opinion by Justice Kennedy explains that the Court had previously held similar language in Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to support that theory.  Regarding the ADEA decision, Justice Kennedy wrote:

In a separate opinion, Justice SCALIA found the ADEA’s text ambiguous and thus deferred under Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulation interpreting the ADEA to impose disparate-impact liability, see 544 U.S., at 243–247 (opinion concurring in part and concurring in judgment).

Texas Dep’t of Hous. & Cmty. Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., No. 13-1371, 2015 WL 2473449, at *8 (U.S. June 25, 2015).  In other words, in 1984, Scalia believed that the language of the ADEA was ambiguous on the question of disparate impact and deferred to the regulations, something he refused to do with respect to the Fair Housing Act yesterday.

And this was just gratuitous, as I’m confident there are approximately 10,000 statutory construction treatises Kennedy could have quoted from:

Against this background understanding in the legal and regulatory system, Congress’ decision in 1988 to amend the FHA while still adhering to the operative language in §§ 804(a) and 805(a) is convincing support for the conclusion that Congress accepted and ratified the unanimous holdings of the Courts of Appeals finding disparate-impact liability. “If a word or phrase has been … given a uniform interpretation by inferior courts …, a later version of that act perpetuating the wording is presumed to carry forward that interpretation.” A. Scalia & B. Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 322 (2012).

Id. at *11.

Such weird unpredictability from someone who believes the meaning of the constitution was fixed in 1787.

[Updated to add the second Inclusive Communities quote.]


Who Would Jesus Fear?

The residents of Indian Village are fighting mad about the potential location of a group home for mentally ill youth in southwest Louisiana’s Allen parish.

“We don’t have a problem helping people,” said 57-year-old resident Beth Courville. “We are a Christian community, a hard-working community.”

“Our fear is fear itself. We don’t know what’s going to be in our backyard,” said Courville. “We would like to stop this nightmare from happening to another community.”

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Photos from LA

I’m in LA for the Disability Rights Legal Center’s Disability Rights Summit.  Great event. Saw lots of old friends and put lots of faces to internet names.  Presented on fair housing with Fernando Gaytan, a wonderful attorney from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.

Couple of photos:

Photo of buildings. Most are beige. One low building in the center is bright red and yellow.


Photo of the side of a building with brick shaped windows, some of which are open and jutting out.


Photo of construction crane and building framework at dusk.


Had dinner at Hama Sushi, where they really really really only serve sushi.

Photo of hand-lettered sign that reads "please read. only sushi, sashimi. no tempura. no teriyaki. no noodles. no rice alone. minimum charge $12 per sperson without beverage."

And it was magnificent!!!

Your accessible garage is “not in the best interest of the neighborhood.”

[This is cross-posted from CREECblog, though I would like to revise and extend by noting that the HOA in the post below was in violation of not only the Fair Housing Act, but of course the Anti-Butthead Act as well.]

My theory is that homeowners associations (HOAs) are run by the same people who bullied their fellow students in high school for not wearing the right brand of jeans.  Only now they have power over the house you bought and live in.

This post is about the Fair Housing Act and the fact that it requires landlords and HOAs to make reasonable accommodations in their policies and to permit residents to make reasonable (physical) modifications to property at their own expense where necessary because of the resident’s disability.* HUD and the DOJ have collaborated on excellent explanatory memos on both reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications.  [Both pdf.]

Seth and Lisa Moates lived in a development called Plantation Oaks** outside of Montgomery, Alabama.  Mr. Moates uses a manual wheelchair, but was moving toward having to use a power chair which, in turn, would require a lift-equipped van.  The Moateses wanted to build a garage to fit their new van as well as Mr. Moates’s therapy equipment.  Of course, they couldn’t just build the structure they needed for Mr. Moates’s disability.  They lived in an HOA community, in which an “Architectural Review Committee” asserted power over decisions like this.  And of course

[t]he ARC denied the Moateses’ initial request on April 8, 2013 for the stated reason that alternate garages and structures were inconsistent with the other Plantation Oaks homes and not in the best interest of the neighborhood.***

That’s right, Mr. Moates, you can’t park your new van in a garage or store your therapy equipment because that would not be “in the best interest of the neighborhood.”  And just to be sure nothing as tacky as a van-accessible garage ever besmirched their plantation, “[t]he Covenants were changed to make the building requested by the Moateses prohibited.”****  You see, originally you just needed special permission for your van accessible garage, but now, in response to the request, that garage and others like it are simply prohibited.

The HOA finally relented after the Moateses reduced the size of the planned garage, BUT only on the condition that, when they sold the house, they demolished the garage and returned the property to its original, pristine, plantation-like***** condition.

The ensuing lawsuit is only at the motion to dismiss stage, but generated a well-reasoned decision denying the motion.  The judge noted that “equal opportunity to use and enjoy [a] dwelling” means

that handicapped[******] people must be afforded the same (or ‘equal’) opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling as non-handicapped people.  . . . [O]thers in the neighborhood are allowed to park their vehicles in garages, thus affording protection.  Affording Mr. Moates a similar opportunity by allowing a larger garage wherein he can park his car, in the same way as his neighbors, plausibly will grant Mr. Moates the same peace of mind and security as everyone else in Plantation Oaks.

Luckily the Moateses have connected with a good attorney and the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center and filed suit.  The HOA — rather than coming to its senses, doing the right thing, and avoiding imposing attorneys’ fees for its stupidity on everyone else in the plantation, er, development — is fighting the suit, arguing not only that it did not violate the Fair Housing Act, but that the Moatses were not injured (did not have standing) and that the suit isn’t ripe for review because the new power wheelchair hasn’t arrived yet.

The judge properly denied those arguments in his well-reasoned decision; I would have been tempted to deny them on the grounds of “gimme a break!”

In this case and so many others, you really shouldn’t need a federal law to make the HOA do the right thing.  All it should require is a bit of common sense  . . . and the realization that we don’t all have to wear the same brand of jeans.


42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(A) & (B).

** I swear I did not make up the name.

*** Moates v. Plantation Oaks Homeowners’ Ass’n, 2013 WL 5532626, at *2  (M.D. Ala. Oct. 7, 2013).

**** Id.

***** Slight editorial license.

****** Unfortunately, the Fair Housing Act still uses this terminology, so lawyers and judges have to follow suit.

File under “o” for occasionally we make some progress

One of the (many many) things I love about legal research is that you can get swept up in the interesting stories that cases tell, many of them totally irrelevant to the point you’re researching.   This is also a happy by-product of ADD.   I think of it as the legal research scenic route, and have no fear, I don’t bill for it.

Today’s scenic route was not so scenic, but was instead a startling history lesson.  I’ll let it speak for itself:

The Court notes that until 1950, the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB) counseled its members to maintain segregated neighborhoods in the interest of maintaining property values. The Code of Ethics of the NAREB provided until then that:  ‘A REALTOR SHOULD NEVER BE INSTRUMENTAL IN INTRODUCING INTO A NEIGHBORHOOD A CHARACTER OF PROPERTY OR OCCUPANCY, MEMBERS OF ANY RACE OR NATIONALITY, OR ANY INDIVIDUALS WHOSE PRESENCE WILL CLEARLY BE DETRIMENTAL TO PROPERTY VALUES IN THAT NEIGHBORHOOD.’

Zuch v. Hussey, 394 F. Supp. 1028, 1054 n.12 (E.D. Mich. 1975).

So, yeah, we’ve made some progress.

Gratuitous political comment:  and this is what Ron Paul would take us back to.