Enforcing Civil Rights Obligations Through the False Claims Act

Hayes, Stephen F.

In August 2019, Westchester County, New York entered into a consent decree to settle a lawsuit brought against it pursuant to the federal False Claims Act. Serving as a qui tam relator on behalf of the United States government, a non-profit alleged that Westchester had falsely certified that it had complied with its obligations to affirmatively further fair housing in order to receive over $50 million in federal housing funds. According to the relators, Westchester had failed to undertake basic fair housing requirements such as considering race-based impediments to housing choice. The litigation was the first to employ the FCA as a method to enforce a locality’s obligation to affirmatively further fair housing and thus represents an innovative model for litigation aimed at reforming major social institutions. This Article situates the Westchester case in ongoing debates about the legitimacy and efficacy of institutional reform litigation and concludes that the public-private partnership model offered by the FCA addresses some common criticisms of litigation as a method of institutional change.

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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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October 28, 2012