PLF victory in Proposition 209 challenge

October 12, 2009 | By JOSHUA THOMPSON

Author: Joshua Thompson

Last week, PLF won an important victory for equality under the law in the case of Smith v. California Health and Human Services Agency.  The case challenged Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 128330(g) & 128345 under Article I, section 31(a) of the California Constitution (often referred to as Proposition 209), which prohibits discrimination and preferential treatment on the basis of race in the operation of public contracting, public employment, and public education.

The Health and Safety Code created a statutory scheme that awarded scholarships and loan forgiveness on the basis of race to medical, dental, and nursing students who chose to serve in medically underserved areas.  PLF represented James Smith, a white nursing student who was denied a scholarship, despite his willingness to work in a medically underserved area. PLF argued that the statutory scheme violated Proposition 209 on its face, because it granted preferences to students based on the color of their skin.

Judge Rudolph Loncke agreed with PLF in every respect.  His opinion, and the court's judgment, can be found here.   Importantly, the court issued a permanent prohibitory injunction against the California Health and Human Services Agency (among numerous other defendants named in the complaint), restraining them from awarding scholarships on the basis of race.  Moreover, the court struck down and severed the unconstitutional language from the Health & Safety Code.

PLF issued a press release on this important victory today.