Coalition To Defend v. Brown

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 04-02-2012
  • Case #: 11-15100; 11-15241
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Silverman for the Court; Senior District Judge Garbis; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Circuit Judge Tashima
  • Full Text Opinion

Prohibiting preferential treatment on the basis of race or ethnicity in the public education system does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (the “Coalition”) initiated a class action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against political and state officials, arguing that article I, section 31 of the California Constitution unfairly excludes minorities from higher education, which as applied violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Section 31 provides: “the state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race…in the operation of public education.” The Coalition sought to enjoin Mark Yudof, President of the University of California (“U.C. Regents”) and Governor Schwarzenegger from enforcing section 31. Yudof asserted immunity under the Eleventh Amendment, claiming that he lacked the power to enforce section 31. The district court dismissed the Coalition’s claims with prejudice, holding that section 31 was constitutional under Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson (Wilson II), which upheld the constitutionality of section 31 under both the conventional and political-structure equal protection analyses. The district court also held that Yudof, as head of the U.C. Regents, was sufficiently connected to the enforcement of section 31 and not immune from suit. The Coalition appealed the district court’s dismissal of its complaint and Yudof cross-appealed the district court’s denial of state immunity. The Ninth Circuit affirmed that Yudof was not immune from the Coalition’s suit. As president of the U.C. Regents, Yudof “has a fairly direct connection to the enforcement of section 31” and is “duty-bound to ensure his employees follow it.” The Court further affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the Coalition’s complaint with prejudice. In so doing, the Court noted that Wilson II is binding precedent of the Ninth Circuit in determining “whether race-based affirmative action programs can be prohibited” and the “district court faithfully applied it.” AFFIRMED.

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