|Contact: ||Sharon L. Browne|
Pacific Legal Foundation
PLF Statement on Jerry Brown’s Legal Attack on Proposition 209
Sacramento, CA; April 23, 2009: Pacific Legal Foundation expressed shock that California’s attorney general – the state’s top legal official, charged with defending California’s constitution – has told the state Supreme Court that Proposition 209 (Article I, Section 31 of the California Constitution), which bans race- and sex-based preferences and discrimination, is invalid.
Voters added Proposition 209 to the California Constitution in 1996. It bans race- and sex-based preferences and discrimination in public contracting, employment, and education. From the time of its enactment, PLF, the leading legal watchdog for limited government and individual rights, has been the primary defender and enforcer of Proposition 209 in California courts.
Sharon L. Browne
PLF Principal Attorney
Attorney General Jerry Brown submitted a letter-brief to the state Supreme Court as part of Coral Construction, Inc. v. City & County of San Francisco, a case currently before the state Supreme Court, in which Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys are challenging race-based preferences in San Francisco contracting.
Brown claimed that Proposition 209 is unconstitutional to the extent it goes beyond the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause in outlawing race- and sex-based preferences by government. But the whole point of Proposition 209 was to provide more protection against race- and sex-based preferences and discrimination than under the U.S. Constitution, so Brown is effectively calling for the state Supreme Court to void Proposition 209, or render it a nullity.
Contrary to Brown’s brief, the constitutionality of Proposition 209 is well-established. The very argument against Proposition 209 that Brown is advancing was rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997. Moreover, the California Supreme Court itself, in a 2001 ruling striking down racial quotas in San Jose’s contracting program, cited to the Ninth Circuit ruling upholding Proposition 209’s constitutionality. The Sixth Circuit also rejected this argument recently, when examining Proposition 209’s sister initiative enacted by voters in Michigan in 2008.
PLF Principal Attorney Sharon Browne had this statement about Attorney General Brown’s call for the striking down of Proposition 209:
“It is shocking that California’s attorney general is not only refusing to defend a key civil rights protection in the state constitution, but is calling for the Supreme Court to invalidate that protection. As the state’s chief legal officer, in all but the most extraordinary circumstances Mr. Brown has a duty to defend the constitution. That duty should carry special weight when it comes to Proposition 209, a guarantee of equal opportunity for all that was added to the constitution by the California electorate. Mr. Brown is abandoning his responsibility to the voters of this state.
“Proposition 209 has been upheld and applied by courts for more than a decade, to strike down race-based discrimination and preferences at all levels of government. It is outrageous that Mr. Brown is now asking that it be ripped out of the state constitution.
“Through Proposition 209, California voters chose to provide more protection against race-based discrimination and preferences than the U.S. Constitution secures. Jerry Brown is trying to deny California voters the right to demand equal treatment for everyone by all levels of government.
“In making this outrageous request of the state Supreme Court, Mr. Brown is reversing his own department’s stance, because in 1996 the attorney general’s office successfully argued in favor of Proposition 209’s constitutionality when the issue was before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Sharon Browne is available for comment at (916) 419-7111.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is the oldest and most successful public interest legal organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and individual rights in courts nationwide.