Listen & Download

On May 1, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami, which was consolidated with Wells Fargo & Co. v. City of Miami. In this case, the city of Miami sued Bank of America Corporation and similar defendants under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), arguing that the banks engaged in predatory lending practices that targeted minorities for higher-risk loans, which resulted in high rates of default and caused financial harm to the city. Miami also alleged that the banks unjustly enriched themselves by taking advantage of benefits conferred by the city, thus denying the city expected property and tax revenues.
The district court dismissed the FHA claims and held that Miami did not fall within the “zone of interests” the statute was meant to protect and therefore lacked standing under the statute. The court also held that Miami had not adequately shown that the banks’ conduct was the proximate cause of the harms the city claimed to have suffered. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that FHA standing extends as broadly as Article III of the Constitution permits, that Miami had established Article III standing here, and that it had sufficiently alleged proximate causation.
By a vote of 5-3, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Eleventh Circuit and remanded the case. In an opinion by Justice Breyer, the Court held that (1) the city of Miami was an "aggrieved person" authorized to bring suit under the Fair Housing Act; and (2) the Eleventh Circuit erred in concluding that the city's complaints met the FHA's proximate-cause requirement based solely on the finding that the city's alleged financial injuries were a foreseeable results of the banks' misconduct; proximate cause under the FHA requires “some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged”; the lower courts should define, in the first instance, the contours of proximate cause under the FHA and decide on remand how that standard applies to the city's claims for lost property-tax revenue and increased municipal expenses. Justice Breyer’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Justices Kennedy and Alito joined. Justice Gorsuch took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.
To discuss the case, we have Thaya Brook Knight, who is associate director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute.

[Return to the SCOTUScast menu]