Two recent court decisions zero in on the toughest areas of fair-lending: how to prove a bank policy is biased and how to distinguish between an honest mistake and a discriminatory decision to deny credit.

The Supreme Court indirectly tackled the first issue May 13 in United States v. Armstrong. The court ruled that the defendant in this drug case had to do more than prove a government policy affected minorities more than whites. Rather, the justices said, he had to that whites in similar circumstances were treated better.

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