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October 02, 2019 RAPID RESPONSE

Rolling Back Disparate Impact and the Repercussions for Civil Rights

The long-standing “Disparate Impact” legal theory has been a crucial legal tool used to expose and address discrimination and uphold civil rights in a wide range of areas of life - housing, education, employment, healthcare, the environment, transportation, and the criminal justice system. This theory addresses how discriminatory actions, policies, and behaviors can have disproportionate effects on particular groups of people, regardless of discriminatory intent. Attempts to rollback disparate impact can have profoundly negative repercussions for civil rights in this nation, leaving individuals vulnerable to discriminatory treatment based upon race, color, national origin, disability status, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.

In the housing arena, the Department of Housing and Urban Development recently proposed a rule that would significantly weaken disparate impact liability under the Fair Housing Act. The proposed rule would allow financial institutions, insurance companies, and housing providers to engage covert discriminatory practices, such as refusing to make mortgage loans to certain individuals or discouraging purchase/rental to individuals based on personal characteristics like race. Comments for the proposed rule are due October 18, 2019.

This webinar features leading civil rights experts and discusses the history and importance of disparate impact for civil rights, and proposes ways for the members of the legal community to engage to help protect this essential civil rights legal tool.


  • Lisa Cylar Barrett, Director of Policy, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
  • Jennifer Mathis, Deputy Legal Director and Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • Sandra Park, Senior Attorney, ACLU Women's Rights Project
  • Eva Paterson, President and Co-Founder, Equal Justice Society
  • Leslie Proll, Civil Rights Attorney, Former Director NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.


  • Janel George, Co-Chair, Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity Committee, ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice


Presentation: Rolling Back Disparate Impact and the Repercussions for Civil Rights

Speaker Biographies

The Constitution in the Year 2000: Choices Ahead in Constitutional Interpretation
Courtesy of Eva Paterson

Litigation Guidelines for Intent
Courtesy of Eva Paterson

Guidelines on Constitutional Litigation
Courtesy of Eva Paterson

Meese Reagan Philosophy on Intent vs Disparate Impact
Courtesy of Eva Paterson

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