Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp
In Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp, 429 U.S. 252, 97 S.Ct. 555, 50 L.Ed.2d 450 (1977), a non-profit housing developer contracted to purchase a tract of land in order to build racially integrated low-income housing.
The developer's contract, however, was contingent upon securing rezoning from the municipality in which the land was located. After the municipality denied rezoning, the developer filed a suit alleging unconstitutional racial discrimination.
The municipality argued that the developer lacked standing to sue, because even if the municipality rezoned the property at issue, the developer "would still have to secure financing, qualify for federal subsidies, and carry through with construction." Arlington Heights, 429 U.S. at 261, 97 S.Ct. at 561.
The Supreme Court disagreed, because the developer had "shown an injury to itself that is 'likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.' " Id. at 262, 97 S.Ct. at 561, quoting Simon v. Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, 426 U.S. 26, 38, 96 S.Ct. 1917, 1924, 48 L.Ed.2d 450 (1976).
In Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252 (1977), the Supreme Court explained that determining whether invidious discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor demands a sensitive inquiry into such circumstantial and direct evidence of intent as may be available. Id. at 266.
And as examples of the type of evidence that may be considered, it listed the historical background of a decision and the specific sequence of events leading up to the challenged decision. Id. at 267.
In Arlington Heights v. Metro. Housing Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 97 S.Ct. 555, 50 L.Ed.2d 450 (1977), the Supreme Court recognized the validity of rebuttable presumptions in actions under 1983.
While the Court held the plaintiffs had not established a prima facie case of purposeful discrimination by the Village of Arlington Heights, it indicated that when the requisite threshold showing is made, the burden will shift to the defendants to establish "that the same decision would have resulted even had the impermissible purpose not been considered." Id. 429 U.S. at 468, n. 21, 97 S.Ct. at 566. In Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 97 S.Ct. 555, 50 L.Ed.2d 450 (1977), the Court reiterated this cardinal principle: "Proof of racially discriminatory intent or purpose is required to show a violation of the Equal Protection Clause." 429 U.S. at 265, 97 S.Ct. at 563.
Arlington Heights prescribes the following criteria for "determining whether invidious discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor" for the government's act: first, the impact of the act that is, whether it burdens one race more than another; second, the historical background of the challenged decision; third, the degree to which the action departs from either normal procedural sequence or normal substantive criteria; and, finally, the contemporaneous statements of those making the decisions. 429 U.S. at 266-68, 97 S.Ct. at 564-565.
This summary, though not exhaustive, identifies the "subjects of proper inquiry in determining whether racially discriminatory intent existed." 429 U.S. at 268, 97 S.Ct. at 565.