Norfolk, VA; January 18, 2023: Today, Marty Hierholzer filed suit against the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) unlawful and racially discriminatory 8(a) contracting program.

The SBA’s 8(a) contracting program sets aside government contracts for “socially and economically disadvantaged” businesses. SBA policies dictate that the race of a business owner can make that business presumptively “socially and economically disadvantaged,” but only if the owner is of certain racial minorities.

Marty Hierholzer is a U.S. Navy veteran and the owner of MJL Enterprises, a Virginia-based small business that provides maintenance products and supplies to VA hospitals and military facilities. Marty repeatedly applied for the SBA’s 8(a) contracting program because he believes that his status as a disabled military veteran should qualify him. But the SBA didn’t see it that way. If Marty were a racial minority, his business would have been presumed disadvantaged; because of his race, it was not.

“Agencies are not allowed to use race as the determining factor in who gets benefits and burdens from the government,” said Ethan Blevins, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “That is discrimination, which violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the law.”

The case is Hierholzer v. Guzman, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.


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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 18 wins of 20 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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