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Administrative Law Judges in Fair Housing Enforcement: Attitudes, Case Facts, and Political Control


  • A previous version of this article was presented at the 2009 meeting of the Northeastern Political Science Association in Philadelphia, PA. We are grateful to James Coleman Battista, Christina L. Boyd, Donald B. Rosenthal, and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. The authors will share all data and coding for replication purposes.

Direct correspondence to Nicholas R. Seabrook, Department of Political Science & Public Administration, University of North Florida, 1 UNF Dr., Jacksonville, FL 32224;



This study investigates the effect of attitudes, case facts, and political control on the fair housing decisions made by administrative law judges (ALJs) at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


Based on data obtained from HUD under a Freedom of Information Act request, we use Probit regression to model the outcomes of every housing discrimination case decided by the entire population of ALJs between 1989 and 2003.


We discover significant variation in the likelihood of a pro-complainant outcome and the amount of actual damages awarded in fair housing disputes.


The attitudinal model of judicial decision making appears to apply to ALJ behavior in housing discrimination cases. At the same time, case facts, bureaucratic oversight, and other legal factors constrain ALJs.