chapter  5
14 Pages

Achieving Integration Through Private Litigation

Private litigation has always been an important enforcement mechanism under the Fair Housing Act. Under the original Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968,1 the Justice Department was authorized to bring “pattern and practice” cases,2 and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) could correct discriminatory housing practices by “informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion.”3 But the central enforcement mechanism was through private suits in the federal and state courts.4 In Traffi cante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (1972, 211), Justice Douglas commented that:

Since HUD has no enforcement powers and since the enormity of the task of assuring fair housing makes the role of the Attorney General in the matter minimal, the main generating force must be private suits in which, the Solicitor General says, the complainants act not only on their own behalf but also “as private attorneys general in vindicating a policy that Congress considered to be of the highest priority.”