On March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated as moot a 2019 judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which had held that the City of Miami plausibly alleged that two national banks’ lending practices violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and led to defaults, foreclosures, and vacancies, eventually reducing property values and corresponding property tax revenues. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) This follows the City’s voluntarily dismissal in January of fair housing lawsuits brought against four national banks (covered by InfoBytes here).
The Supreme Court first addressed the underlying case in 2017, holding that municipal plaintiffs may be “aggrieved persons” authorized to bring suit under the FHA against lenders for injuries allegedly flowing from discriminatory lending practices. (Covered by a Buckley Special Alert.) However, the Court held that such injuries must be proximately caused by, rather than simply the foreseeable result of, the alleged misconduct. On remand, the 11th Circuit found “a logical and direct bond between discriminatory lending as a pattern and practice applied to neighborhoods throughout the City and the reduction in property values,” but also noted that the City’s allegations fell short of establishing a direct relationship between the alleged misconduct and the City’s purported increase in its municipal services expenditures. The banks subsequently filed petitions (see here and here) last November, asking the Supreme Court to review “[w]hether proximate cause in private litigation about the [FHA] requires more than a ‘logical bond’ between the alleged statutory violation and the plaintiff’s injury.”