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"Public Notice Forums"

Choosing Among Alternatives to Confront the Intent Requirement

By Edgar S. Cahn, Cynthia Robbins & Keri A. Nash

The requirement to prove that discrimination was intentional has long been a difficult barrier to overcome by plaintiffs challenging government policies that have disparate racial impact. A new legal strategy seeks to surmount that barrier by relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in City of Canton v. Harris that intent can be inferred when government officials choose a harmful course of action from among alternatives. Advocates are relying on "public notice forums" to put officials on notice of the impact of existing policies and of proven alternatives that would reduce racial disparities.

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