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Ninth Circuit upholds California affirmative action ban

A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Monday upheld [opinion, PDF] a 1996 amendment to the California Constitution which bars preferential treatment for "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." Though Proposition 209 [JURIST op-ed] bars state and local agencies from considering race or gender in employment, contracting and education, the 55 applicants to the University of California (UC) schools of higher education and the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (CDAA) [advocacy website] who brought this lawsuit challenge only the higher education element. The Ninth Circuit upheld the measure relying on its own precedent. The Pacific Legal Foundation [advocacy group] applauded the decision in a public statement [text] claiming, "[t]oday's ruling is good news for everyone who values fairness and equal opportunity, because Proposition 209 guarantees fair treatment for everyone, regardless of skin color, sex, or ethnic ancestry." The CDAA promised to appeal the decision to the full court en banc in a statement [text] released after the decision's announcement.

In October California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed [JURIST report] a bill [text, PDF] that would have effectively overturned Proposition 209 by allowing UC schools to consider demographic factors such as race during the admissions process. The governor said in his veto message to the Senate that although he agreed with the bill's purpose, it is the role of the Ninth Circuit to decide Proposition 209's boundaries. Brown previously contested [opinion letter, PDF; JURIST report] Proposition 209 in 2009 as California's Attorney General. The CDAA's suit was originally dismissed in December 2010 by the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] in Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Schwarzenneger [text, PDF].

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