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Federal Appeals Court Hears Challenge To California Affirmative Action Ban

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard a challenge to California's 15-year ban on using affirmative action in public college admissions.

As the AP put it, Proposition 209, as it's known, "barred racial, ethnic or gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting." And over the 15 years since it was approved by California voters, that same court has upheld it.

In 2010, however, more than 40 minority students, as well as advocacy groups filed a challenge, saying the ban has dropped minority enrollment at the University of California and created a hostile environment for black, Latino and Native American students.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the despite having the support of Gov. Jerry Brown, the court seemed unmoved. The paper adds:

"During an hour of arguments in San Francisco, a three-judge 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel questioned its ability to tamper with Proposition 209 in view of the court's 1997 decision finding the nearly 16-year-old law constitutional. ...

"Lawyers for the governor and the students argued the previous 9th Circuit case was "wrongly decided," and that it did not consider Proposition 209's effect on minority enrollment at UC campuses. But the judges appeared skeptical.

"'I don't know the purpose of arguing that "(the case) was wrongly decided,' said Judge A. Wallace Tashima.

"The three judges may be boxed in by the court's precedent, but did suggest the plaintiffs can ask the 9th Circuit to reconsider the case with a larger 11-judge panel, which has more authority to re-examine the law."

The AP reports that the group is also pinning its hopes on a 2003 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the University of Michigan Law School could consider race in their admission process to "promote campus diversity." A circuit court used that ruling, last year, to strike down Michigan's ban on affirmative action.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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