PLF attorneys prepare to defend Prop. 209 (again)


Author: Daniel Himebaugh

Late last year, PLF attorneys won a major victory when a federal district court granted our motion to dismiss a challenge to California's Proposition 209.  Now that ruling is being appealed, and PLF attorneys are gearing up once again to defend Prop. 209 in the Ninth Circuit in Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action ("BAMN") v. Brown (Case No. 11-15100).

Prop. 209, as it was known on the ballot, was a 1996 initiative that amended California's constitution to prohibit the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, "any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."  This ban on discrimination applies to all state entities, including the California State Universities and the University of California.

Prop. 209 has been a lightning rod of litigation since its adoption.  PLF attorneys have been involved in several lawsuits involving Prop. 209, including this latest challenge, which comes from a group called the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equity by Any Means Necessary, or "BAMN."

BAMN alleges that Prop. 209 violates the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it does not allow the University of California to grant race-based preferences in admissions.  This claim is, well, difficult to fathom, since Prop. 209 parallels the Equal Protection Clause in prohibiting racial discrimination.  Moreover, the Ninth Circuit decided this very claim against BAMN's position in 1997, after a group called the Coalition for Economic Equity sued then-Governor Pete Wilson to stop enforcing Prop. 209.  (Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson, 122 F.3d 692 (9th Cir. 1997)).

Indeed, the district court in the BAMN case dismissed the suit on the grounds that BAMN failed to state a legitimate claim, since the Ninth Circuit's 1997 decision controls.  But BAMN will not relent, and the issue is now set to be decided by the Ninth Circuit once again.

PLF attorneys represent the original proponents of Prop. 209, including former University of California Regent Ward Connerly.  It was necessary for Connerly and others to intervene in the case because the California Attorney General's office has consistently refused to defend Prop. 209 in court.  As such, PLF attorneys have once again stepped up to defend Prop. 209 because it preserves one of the most fundamental American ideals — government should not treat people differently based on their race.

You can follow developments in this litigation on our website.