On Tuesday, a complicated legal case surrounding bank loans and a Missouri housing development prompted the first tie vote in the U.S. Supreme Court since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, leaving in place a lower court ruling that barred two Missouri women from suing a suburban Kansas City bank for loan discrimination.
In the mid-2000s, developers Gary Hawkins and Chris Patterson borrowed more than $2 million to build a housing subdivision. Their wives, Valerie Hawkins and Janice Patterson, guaranteed the loans at the request of the lender, the Community Bank of Raymore.
The loans defaulted in 2012 and the bank sought repayment from the women. The women sued under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a law intended to protect loan applicants from bias based on marital status, saying the guarantees were unenforceable and discriminatory. Lower courts ruled that the law covers only those who apply for credit and not those who guarantee to secure the debt.
The one-sentence opinion does not set a national precedent and does not identify how each justice voted. It simply upholds a decision from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that applies to Missouri and six other nearby states.