California’s constitutional ban on preferential treatment based on race, sex or ethnicity passes constitutional muster, again, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The decision is a defeat for civil rights groups who challenged the law, passed by voters in 1996 as Proposition 209. They had claimed in this latest action that the ban violates the federal Constitution’s Equal Protection provisions.
The suit sought to block University President Mark Yudof from enforcing the provisions.
The 9th Circuit previously upheld the constitutionality of the initiative in 1997, Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson.
While the 1997 lawsuit was a broad attack on the state constitutional amendment, the current case challenged how it was applied to individuals throughout the higher education system in the state.
It was brought by state high school and college students who argued it caused unfair exclusion of African American, Latino and Native American students from higher education.
One year after the law passed, the number of African-American, Latino and Native American freshmen at UCLA and UC Berkeley plunged by 50 percent, according to the court. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit blame Prop. 209.
The university attempted to mitigate the impact on minorities by creating a comprehensive review of applicants, decreasing the weight of standardized tests and admitting the top 4 percent of graduates from any high school.
The ruling, written by Judge Barry Silverman, upholds the trial court decision of Judge Sam Conti in San Francisco.
Silverman noted the U.S. Supreme Court has said race-based affirmative action programs are permissible, but it did not hold they were constitutionally required.
“The bottom line is that [the 1997 Prop. 209 ruling] remains the law of the circuit, and the district court faithfully applied it,” he wrote.
Case: Coalition to defend Affirmative Action v. Brown, No. 11-15100
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