Supreme Court Rules in Fair Housing Act Case

AFSA Staff

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Bank of America v. City of Miami, in which AFSA participated as an amicus. The opinion contains a number of points important to AFSA members In a 5-3 decision, the Justices vacated the Eleventh Circuit ruling.

First, the Court ruled that the cities are within the “zone of interests” protected by the Fair Housing Act, and so are “aggrieved persons” authorized to bring suit under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Second, the Court unanimously concluded that the Eleventh Circuit erred in holding that the cities could meet the FHA's proximate cause requirement based solely on a showing that their alleged financial injuries were a foreseeable result of the banks’ alleged misconduct.  Instead, the cities must also show a “direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged.” The Court noted that its general tendency “is not to go beyond the first step,” but it declined to define the precise boundaries of proximate cause under the FHA until the lower courts have had an opportunity to apply the “direct relation” standard in this context.

Justice Thomas, joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito, dissented on the zone of interests issue. In addition, the three dissenters would have held that the cities cannot meet the proximate cause requirement. Chief Justice Roberts joined the majority, avoiding a 4-4 tie.