Federal Appeals Court Upholds California’s Ban on Affirmative-Action Preferences

A federal appeals court today upheld California’s ban on affirmative-action preferences by public colleges and other state and local agencies, a policy contained in an amendment to the state’s Constitution that was passed in a 1996 ballot measure known as Proposition 209. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the ban does not violate students’ rights under the U.S. Constitution, although one of the three judges dissented in part from the decision.

The court, which upheld Proposition 209 when it was originally challenged, in 1997, ruled that a subsequent Supreme Court decision allowing the limited use of affirmative action did not now render the ban unconstitutional—the argument made by the plaintiffs in the case, led by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary.

In its latest ruling, the court affirmed a 2010 decision by a federal district judge, who dismissed the case on the grounds that the Supreme Court decision, the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger, had not altered the legal landscape so drastically as to undermine previous rulings on whether Proposition 209 violated the U.S. Constitution.

George B. Washington, a lawyer in Detroit who is representing the plaintiffs, told the Associated Press that he would ask the full Ninth Circuit appeals court to review the decision.

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