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FHA Discrimination Case Withdrawn Before Date with SCOTUS

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Article III courts may only hear cases or controversies. As of today, Magner v. Gallagher, a case from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that was set for oral arguments this month before the Supreme Court, no longer meets those criteria.

The City of St. Paul, Minn. withdrew its petition to the Supreme Court today, so the case will instead proceed to trial in a Minnesota federal court, reports SCOTUSblog. The Supreme Court had scheduled arguments in the case for February 29.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing sales and rentals. The federal appellate courts have interpreted the FHA discrimination prohibition as an outcome-driven policy, finding that it's the discriminatory impact, not a discriminatory intent, that matters when evaluating policies for FHA violations.

In 2005, approximately 20 private landlords sued the city of St. Paul, claiming the city's "aggressive" housing code enforcement violated the Fair Housing Act, and reduced the number of properties they could rent to low-income tenants who were disproportionally African-American. A district judge granted summary judgment for St. Paul. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, reinstated the landlords' case, finding there was evidence to support a disparate impact discrimination claim against St. Paul because the city's housing code enforcement increased costs to landlords who rented to low-income tenants, according to Minnesota Lawyer.

St. Paul appealed the issue to the Supreme Court, and the Court granted cert in November.

Today, the city withdrew its petition to the Supreme Court, due to concerns about "collateral damage" from a Supreme Court ruling. City Attorney Sara Grewing said "We felt more comfortable at a trial court, rather than a policy court, and we are confident we will win there," reports Minnesota Lawyer.

While the Nine may be able to hear a specific issue on appeal sui generis, they cannot hear a case sui generis, which means that the FHA discrimination issue will not be decided for now.

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