The Wall Street Journal has a lengthy column up detailing how  Thomas Perez, President Obama’s nominee to head the Labor Department, acted to get a city to drop a Supreme Court case that could have caused trouble for the Justice Department’s civil rights division. Perez was (and currently still is) assistant attorney general for civil rights.

From the Journal:

These columns first reported on the curious St. Paul episode in February 2012 (“Squeezed in St. Paul”), after the Minnesota city withdrew a case that it had spent almost a decade litigating and that the U.S. Supreme Court had already agreed to hear. We’ve since learned more about how it happened, and we’ve seen emails that illustrate the strong-arm role played by Mr. Perez in his current job as head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. It’s a story of how political muscle undermined the rule of law.


Mr. Perez is a champion of disparate-impact theory, which purports to prove racial discrimination by examining statistics rather than intent or specific cases. Soon after Mr. Perez assumed his job in October 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder established a unit under Mr. Perez to examine loans to minorities. The unit proceeded to threaten a series of lawsuits against banks under the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

The lenders quickly settled these cases rather than run the reputational risk of being called racist in court. But on November 7, 2011 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the City of St. Paul’s appeal in Magner v. Gallagher, which concerned the legality of disparate-impact theory in housing. St. Paul believed it had an excellent chance to prevail because the text of the Fair Housing Act doesn’t explicitly allow for disparate impact.

That’s when the Obama Administration kicked into gear.

The upshot is that the Justice Department under Perez’s direction agreed to act to undermine two other, potentially much more costly, private legal matters the city faced if it agreed to drop the Supreme Court challenge. Perez followed through and that  insured that the DOJ could continue to pursue disparate impact cases.