On October 7th, 2016, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, alongside the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights, the National Consumer Law Center, Impact Fund, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, and the ACLU Foundation, filed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in support of the City of Miami.  This brief highlighted how racially discriminatory lending practices were a major cause of residential segregation in this county, how the Fair Housing Act was specifically designed to address the systemic problems associated with residential segregation, and how the predatory and discriminatory lending practices by banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo have been perpetuating the harms of residential segregation.

The Supreme Court issued its decision on May 1, 2017, finding that Miami fell within the “zone of interests” with respect to the Fair Housing Act sufficient to have standing to sue.  The Supreme Court remanded to the Eleventh Circuit to determine whether the banks’ misconduct was the proximate cause of the City of Miami’s financial injuries.

Due to this decision, several cities have now filed suit or filed amended complaints against banks under similar theories put forth by the City of Miami.  Currently, Cohen Milstein is working with its partners in the civil rights community on another amicus brief in support the City of Oakland in its suit against Wells Fargo.  The case is titled City of Oakland v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., in the District Court for the Northern District of California.   

Case Background

On December 13th, 2011, the City of Miami filed suit against Wells Fargo and Bank of America under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, arguing that these banks engaged in racially discriminatory lending practices which resulted in the disproportionate foreclosure of homes in primarily African American and Latino neighborhoods.  Miami alleged that because of these foreclosures, the city lost a large amount of tax revenue and was forced to increase spending on police, fire and other municipal services in the neighborhoods affected by the banks’ discriminatory lending practices. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the case, finding that Miami did not have standing to sue under the Fair Housing Act.  The case was then appealed to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the District Court decision, and then appealed once more to the Supreme Court of the United States.