August 2, 2010

Cal. Supreme Court rejects San Francisco’s challenge to Prop. 209

By Cal. Supreme Court rejects San Francisco’s challenge to Prop. 209

San Francisco, CA; August 2, 2010: The California Supreme Court today rejectedSan Francisco’s attempt to get Proposition 209 declared unconstitutional.

Enacted by voters in 1996, Proposition 209 (Article 1, Section 31, of the California Constitution), outlaws race- and sex-based preferences and discrimination in government contracting, employment and education.

Today, ruling in a lawsuit by Pacific Legal Foundationattorneys against San Francisco’s race- and sex-based quotas in public contracting, the state Supreme Court rejected the city’s contention that Proposition 209 violates the U.S. Constitution by allegedly targeting minority groups and limiting their ability to vindicate their rights.

"Today’s ruling, upholding Proposition 209, is a powerful victory for equal justice under law, and for the rights of all Californians, of every race and color," said PLF Principal Attorney Sharon L. Browne. "As the court recognized, Proposition 209 is a civil rights measure that protects everyone, regardless of background. Under Proposition 209, no one can be victimized by unfair government policies that discriminate or grant preferences based on sex or skin color."

PLF’s lawsuit challenges a San Francisco contracting ordinance that grants race- and sex-based favoritismin the contracting process. Bids submitted by minority- and women-owned business enterprises are calculated as being as much as 10 percent lower than what they actually are. The policy is currently suspended as PLF’s challenge goes forward.

In addition to rejecting San Francisco’s argument that Proposition 209 is unconstitutional, the Court kept PLF’s lawsuit alive by sending the case back to the trial court for factual development. The city has claimed that its race- and sex-based preferences are justified because it supposedly has a history of discrimination in contracting that requires a remedial response. That claim will now be tested at the trial court level.

"We are poised for ultimate victory in this case, because it is already clear that San Francisco has no evidence to support its claim of past intentional discrimination by the city or its contractors against minorities and women," said Sharon Browne. "Without evidence of past intentional discrimination, the city can offer no justification for race- and sex-based policies, so the city loses this lawsuit and the people win. We believe the city’s claim that it has intentionally discriminated is clearly baseless and its practice of penalizing innocent contractors, through a policy that discriminates against them because of skin color or sex, is flat-out unconstitutional."

PLF attorneys represent Coral Construction, Inc., and Schram Construction, Inc., both of which have been discriminated against in San Francisco’s public contracting process because of the city’s unconstitutional program.

The case is Coral Construction, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco.

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