September 7, 2010
Lamb, Seabrook, & Wilk on Fair Housing Policy Making in the Lower Federal Courts
Charles M. Lamb (Poli Sci, SUNY-Buffalo), Nicholas R. Seabrook (Poli Sci/PA, North Florida), and Eric M. Wilk (Poli Sci, Georgia) have posted Fair Housing Policy Making in the Lower Federal Courts. The abstract:
When the Supreme Court became progressively more conservative after the late 1960s, fair housing — more of a policy concern of liberal judges — gained little traction with the Court. Moreover, the housing discrimination decisions that the Court did announce were conservative. This left a power vacuum in the federal judicial system, allowing the courts of appeals and the district courts to play an expanded policy making role in both constitutional and statutory issues. Specifically, the lower federal courts have been able to affect fair housing policy by incrementally moving the law in a liberal direction, but avoiding the kind of sweeping decisions that might attract too much Supreme Court attention. Some more liberal decisions, especially those where a court of appeals has reversed a district court, have been overturned at the Supreme Court level, but many incrementally liberal decisions have been allowed to stand. We further suggest that the most liberal federal fair housing decisions since the early 1970s have come predominantly from the more liberal circuits that represent large cities in the Northeast and Midwest, precisely where the problems of housing discrimination and segregation are frequently most serious.
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