NFHA Applauds Biden-Harris Picks to Lead Department of Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 7, 2021

Contact: Izzy Woodruff | 202-898-1661 | IWoodruff@nationalfairhousing.org 

NFHA Applauds Biden-Harris Picks to Lead Department of Justice 

Washington, D.C. — Today, Lisa Rice, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), issued the following statement in support of the incoming Biden-Harris administration’s selection of Merrick Garland as U.S. Attorney General, Lisa Monaco as Deputy Attorney General, Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General, and Kristen Clarke as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights:

“After enduring almost four years of former Attorneys General like Jeff Sessions and William Barr and their efforts to undermine the rule of law at the behest of Donald Trump, we welcome President-elect Biden’s nomination of Merrick Garland, who will actually work to uphold it.

“Judge Garland brings years of service to the cause of justice to this role, having served as Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and earlier in the Department of Justice (DOJ) as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General. The growing reality of domestic terror fueled by racism, as evidenced by the shocking insurrection we witnessed just this week that was incited by the outgoing President’s bigotry and extremism, underscores the importance of DOJ leadership that will take these threats seriously and work diligently to uphold and protect our democracy. For this reason, we are also encouraged by President-elect Biden’s selection of Lisa Monaco to serve as Deputy Attorney General; Monaco is a long-time public servant at DOJ and served as homeland security adviser in the Obama White House.

“The DOJ also plays a crucial role in enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws, which is why we are especially enthusiastic about Biden’s selection of extraordinary civil rights attorneys Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke as Associate Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, respectively. Both Gupta, currently President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Clarke, President and Executive Director of The National Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, bring an incredible breadth and depth of civil rights expertise to their new positions, including litigation experience at the venerable NAACP-Legal Defense Fund, which was founded by Thurgood Marshall.

“Gupta previously served as Acting Assistant Attorney General and head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and as Deputy Legal Director and the Director of the Center for Justice at the American Civil Liberties Union. Clarke previously served as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, enforcing civil rights laws related to criminal justice issues, education and housing discrimination, fair lending, and much more. Both women have joined NFHA in its ongoing efforts to uphold the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule put in place to eliminate residential segregation. They have also fought alongside NFHA to preserve the key civil rights protection known as Disparate Impact that addresses policies and practices that may seem neutral on their face but result in harmful discriminatory impacts against vulnerable groups. Given the Trump DOJ’s 11th hour attempt to further weaken Disparate Impact, NFHA is particularly pleased that the Biden-Harris administration has selected individuals to lead the department who understand the importance of Disparate Impact.  

“In addition to vowing to uphold key civil rights laws and regulations, we urge the incoming DOJ team to take the following specific steps:

  • Withdraw DOJ guidance issued in 2017 that precludes settlements involving relief to third parties that were not directly harmed by the alleged discriminatory conduct, including fair housing organizations;
  • Resume resolving settlements in the form of court-ordered Consent Decrees as was done previously, rather than through private settlement agreements as was the practice under the Trump administration;
  • Work to identify and address systemic discrimination in housing and lending that harm people of color and persons in other protected classes, including, for example, cases in which police authorities work to intimidate or target protected classes in public and private housing;
  • Work to resolve outstanding litigation brought by civil rights groups challenging HUD’s 2020 Disparate Impact rule (in conjunction with HUD);
  • Utilize the panoply of enforcement tools available to address systemic discrimination in the housing and lending markets. This should include, but not be limited to, use of the Disparate Impact standard under the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act;
  • Develop a more robust DOJ fair housing testing program to deploy independently in areas where there are no Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP)-funded testing programs and where there are active local programs and contracts with FHIP groups to do initial rounds of testing to identify targets for DOJ follow-up;
  • Collaborate with fair housing groups to resolve outstanding issues involving discriminatory practices that contributed to the 2008 foreclosure crisis and Great Recession;
  • Work with fair housing agencies to remove systemic and structural barriers that deny communities of color access to important amenities and opportunities they need to withstand and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • Expeditiously file DOJ cases within 30 days after HUD issues a charge of discrimination and the case is referred to DOJ, as the Fair Housing Act requires. Relatedly, in contrast to recent DOJ practice, limit the use of tolling agreements for HUD election cases to special circumstances.

“By taking the steps outlined above, the incoming DOJ leaders can help restore the American people’s faith in our institutions and help strengthen our democracy.”

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About The National Fair Housing Alliance

Founded in 1988, NFHA is a consortium of more than 200 private, nonprofit fair housing organizations and state and local civil rights agencies from throughout the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., NFHA works to eliminate housing discrimination and ensure equal housing opportunity for all people through leadership, education, outreach, membership services, public policy initiatives, community development, advocacy, and enforcement.

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