Appeals court guts state’s affirmative action programs

By David Kravets Associated Press Writer
Wednesday September 05, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly five years after California voters approved Proposition 209 banning affirmative action, a state appeals court Tuesday declared invalid a host of race- and gender-based government hiring programs. 

The decision by the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal came as little surprise, as voters in 1996 passed Proposition 209 demanding a color-blind state government. Voters said California should not consider race, gender and economic background when deciding who to hire or to award contracts. 

“We are heartened by this strong ruling for equal rights,” said Anthony T. Caso, vice president of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which brought the suit. 

The three-judge panel voided race-based “goals and timetables” for hiring minorities and women at the California Community College District and among the state’s civil service work force. The panel also nullified a state lottery and a treasury office rule demanding that some contracts be awarded to the “socially and economically disadvantaged.” 

“By any reckoning, this constitutes the use of hiring preferences,” Justice Arthur G. Scotland wrote in the 3-0 opinion. 

The attorney general’s office, which argued on behalf of the state’s programs, was mulling its next move, spokesman Nathan Barankin said. 

If the state takes its case to the California Supreme Court, it may get the cold shoulder. The high court in November invalidated a San Jose ordinance requiring government contractors to solicit bids from companies owned by women and minorities. 

The state Supreme Court said San Jose’s ordinance violated Proposition 209, which bans state government from discriminating against or granting “preferential treatment to 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.” 

The case decided Tuesday was Connerly v. State Personnel Board, C032042.