Civil Rights News 2000

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October 13, 2000

  • Court Allows Pupils Based On Race

WASHINGTON (AP) _ An experimental elementary school that makes children's race a factor when selecting its students survived a Supreme Court challenge Monday.

The justices let stand rulings that the school run by the University of California has a justifiable reason for considering race and therefore does not violate the rights of the children it turns away.

The Corinne A. Seeds University Elementary School, run by UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, has 460 students - 4-year-olds to sixth-graders. The ``laboratory school'' is used to study racial groups' learning skills and recommend new teaching methods.

Aiming for a particular student population, the school's officials take into account applicants' race and ethnicity, sex, family income, dominant language and other factors. The class of 4-year-olds that entered the school in 1995 was a typical one - 39 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black, 9 percent Asian and the rest mixed-race.

About 150 applicants were turned away, among them Keely Tatsuyo Hunter. Her parents sued, contending that the school's consideration of race violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

A federal judge said the school's use of race in admissions served a ``compelling interest,''  improving the quality of education in urban public schools. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the school's policy by a 2-1 vote last year.

The panel called the school ``a valuable resource to California's public ucation system.'' It said the school's use of race and ethnicity for esearch was similar to a medical school's use of Jewish patients to study Tay-Sachs disease, or blacks to study sickle-cell anemia.

But the dissenting judge, Robert Beezer, said the ruling betrayed ``a disquieting renewed tolerance for the use of race in government decision-making.''

In the appeal acted on Monday, lawyers for the Hunter girl's parents said other research-oriented schools will spring up now that they have ``the green light to enforce racial quotas.''

``Once the downhill slide has started, there is no delineated stopping point until the slide bottoms out in race-based preferences in all sectors of society,'' the appeal said.

In a series of 5-4 decisions over the past several years, the nation's highest court has curtailed government's ability to make race a consideration when awarding contracts and drawing election districts. The case is Hunter v. Regents of University of California, 00-135.


  • The Southern District of New York now has before it a class action lawsuit for violation of federal law and international human rights standards, brought against Robert Mugabe, the President (and dictator) of Zimbabwe, several of his colleagues and cohorts, and his political party, the Zimbabwe African Nation Union -- Political Front (ZANU-PF). The action is based on the Alien Tort Claims Act, 28 USC sec. 1350, and the Torture Victims Protection Act, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Mugabe and his codefendants in their personal capacities for acts of extra-judicial killings, political harassment and torture, and deprivation of civil rights and property, all in violation of international norms and standards as codified in the International Convention Against Torture and other human rights conventions.

A private process server personally served Mugabe in Harlem, New York, as he was entering a church where he was scheduled to speak. Mugabe kept the summons and complaint in hand as he entered the church. A colleague and fellow officer of Mugabe named Stan Mudenge was personally served on the street in Manhattan the next day.  Both men are officers of ZANU-PF, in addition to their personal capacities in the Zimbabwean government.

The personal service presented considerable personal risk to the process server, as the scene was replete with NY Police, Secret Service officers, as well as Minister Louis Farrakhan's security entourage. On filing the complaint, counsel for the plaintiffs had moved eds parte for, and received, an order form the US District Court permitting alternate forms of service by serving the Secret Service Agent in Charge on the scene, who would then have been required to personally deliver the papers and make a return of service to the Court.  The US State Department, however, acting through the US Attorney for the Southern District, intervened the next day and successfully moved to vacate the order permitting alternate means of service. The plaintiffs and their counsel have complained that this was an unjustifiable and needless intrusion by the Government that had no real interest or standing and put the individual process server at great risk of personal harm.

The plaintiffs are five residents of Zimbabwe (four African and one Caucasian), who were personally harassed, beaten or tortured for their actives in support of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the nascent opposition political party in Zimbabwe.  The plaintiffs also represent the estates of deceased spouses and relatives who were campaigning for MDC or merely owned private farms in Zimbabwe, when they were dragged off by ZANU-PF operatives at the direction and orders of Mugabe and his officers, tortured and then killed.  Counsel for the plaintiffs is Theodore M. Cooperstein, a Washington, D.C. attorney who litigates in federal courts. (Cooperstein is also Vice-Chair of the Civil Rights Practice Group of the Federalist Society.)

To date, no answer or other response has been filed or served on behalf of Mugabe and the defendants. In press releases form Harare, Zimbabwe, Mugabe spokesmen are reported as saying the American press is mistaken and that there was no service of process.  Later, the same spokesmen added that they felt the service of process had no legal validity.

The Alien Tort Claims Act was enacted by the First Congress as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789.  The statute gives federal court jurisdiction to any action in tort brought by an alien for "violation of the Law of Nations."  The statute has seen renewed life in the past

decades, including  a case brought against Chinese leader Li Peng and also against the leader of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb Republic, Radovan Karadzic, who suffered a Southern District of New York jury verdict in excess of $45 million in the past months. The Second Circuit, among other courts, has interpreted the Alien Tort Claims Act to encompass standards of human and civil decency incorporated in customary international law, to include The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  as well as conventions against torture and extra-judicial killing committed under color of official governmental authority.

The Torture Victims Protection Act, codified at 28 USC sec. 1350, was Congress's implementation legislation enacted to enforce the International Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  which the United States ratified in 1990.


September 27, 2000

    Just as Florida is proving to be a crucial "battleground" state in the upcoming election, a lawsuit has been filed challenging the constitutionality of that state's law forbidding convicted felons from voting.  Attorneys from New York Law University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice, acting in conjunction with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claim that forbidding felons from voting has an intentional, disproportional impact on black males.

September 13, 2000

  • Governor Jeb Bush and Chancellor Adam Herbert announced a dramatic 12 percent increase in the number of minority students entering the state university system as first-time-in-college students. Preliminary enrollment figures provided by Florida's 10 public universities and the Board of Regents indicate that an additional 1,234 African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American students have entered the university system compared with last year's entering class. 

September 7, 2000


  • The Institute for Justice recently published “State of the Supreme Court 2000: The Justices’ Record on Individual Liberties.” Visit to view the publication.


  • Kozmo to face discrimination claims in D.C.
    Days after a federal court dismissed a discrimination lawsuit against, the plaintiffs are preparing to file a similar suit at the state court level. Andrew Marks, the lawyer for two Washington, D.C., residents and a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights group, today said he will file a new lawsuit this week in the District of Columbia. The suit alleges that Kozmo refused to deliver goods to predominantly black communities. The suit also alleges that the online convenience store violated the D.C. Human Rights Act, a local anti-discrimination measure.

September 4, 2000

    At the behest of University of California Regent Ward Connerly, California Governor Gray Davis (D) exercised his line-item veto authority to delete from the state budget an appropriation of $380,000 for targeted minority outreach at UCLA's Medical School. The Governor's veto message noted that targeted minority outreach is suspect under Proposition 209, California Constitution art. I, § 31, forbidding preferences in education on the basis of race. Governor Davis noted it would be unwise to engage in such a practice while the constitutionality of targeted outreach is under review by the California Supreme Court.
    In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, forbidding race and gender preferences in public education, hiring and employment. In response to Proposition 209, the City of San Jose re-styled its program of preferences into a program that purportedly mandates targeted outreach. City contractors must either meet goals for employing "disadvantaged" groups, or prove that they made efforts to recruit members of such groups. Failure to meet these requirements, claims the City, might be evidence of discrimination. Under the City's logic, preferences must be granted to ensure that Proposition 209's prohibition on preferences is maintained.
    Not satisfied with the City's new program of granting preferences, contractor Hi Voltage Wire Works challenged its constitutionality under Proposition 209. A trial judge agreed, striking down the program. This decision was, in turn, unanimously affirmed by a panel of the California Court of Appeal, Hi-Voltage Wire Works v. City of San Jose, 72 Cal.App.4th 600 (1999). Last year, the California Supreme Court unanimously granted review of the case. A ruling is expected sometime this year.
    Although federal courts have already upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 209, the U.S. Justice Department has filed an amicus brief in the case claiming that applying Proposition 209 would prevent the City from fulfilling a federal duty to grant preferences.
    On July 13, the Florida Supreme Court, as expected, ruled that the Florida Civil Rights Initiative could not proceed as a ballot measure. The initiative already had been postponed from the 2000 ballot because of the pending legal challenge. The decision can be accessed at
    Last month, the United States Court of Claims struck down the Army's rules granting preferences to minority and women officers who seek to avoid mandatory early retirement. By establishing a "goal" for retaining certain proportions of minority and female officers, and subjecting officers to different evaluation procedures based on an individual officer's race and sex, the Army violated its officers constitutional right to equal treatment under the law. The case is Christian v. United States
    In 1996, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued its landmark decision in Hopwood v. University of Texas Law School, rejecting race preferences in law school admissions as unconstitutional violations of the right to equal protection of the law. The Appeals Court returned the case to the District Court to determine the appropriate extent of relief. Having failed to persuade the Supreme Court to review the decision, Texas officials continue to resist compensating the plaintiffs, as well as the adoption of race-neutral admissions policies.
    The District Court ordered Texas to stop discriminating on the basis of race, but declined to order the aggrieved plaintiffs admitted to the school, finding that the plaintiffs would not have likely been admitted absent the unlawful discrimination. The plaintiffs received $1 for having been subjected to a discriminatory policy. Successful civil rights plaintiffs are entitled to their attorney's fees, but this claim was severely restricted as well. Both sides are appealing the order. Plaintiffs seek admission to the law school and greater compensation, as well as a larger attorney fee recovery. The state seeks to throw out the injunction forbidding it from discriminating against law school applicants, arguing that since discrimination is allowed in other jurisdictions, Texas schools cannot effectively compete for minority students. Oral arguments on the appeal were heard June 7.

 August 19, 2000

  • Respondents Hi-Voltage Wire Works, Inc., and Allen Jones hereby submit their reply to the amici curiae briefs filed by the State of California (State), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (NAACP), Mission Hiring Hall, et al., and National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, et al. (NAPALC).

August 16, 2000

  • Police Alcohol "Sniffer" Raises New Questions
    Virginia State police are employing the PAS III "Sniffer" to detect drunk drivers at checkpoints and traffic stops. Surreptitiously concealed inside a flashlight or a clipboard, the device automatically checks the blood alcohol level of all drivers and has alarmed many civil libertarian groups. For more information:
August 1, 2000
  • The National Federation of the Blind withdrew its lawsuit against America Online Inc. in order to give the company time to make its Internet service accessible to the blind, the company and the Federation said Wednesday. See for more details:
  • The University of Georgia's practice of granting racial preferences in admissions has been struck down as unconstitutional.
  • Race ruling slams UGA
    Bill Rankin - Staff ----- Tuesday, July 25, 2000
    The University of Georgia's race-conscious admissions program is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Monday. In a strongly worded opinion, U.S. District Judge Avant Edenfield of Savannah rejected UGA's arguments that the promotion of diversity in higher education is a compelling state interest.
    "To base racial preferences upon an amorphous, unquantifiable and temporarily unlimited goal is to engage in naked racial balancing," Edenfield wrote.
    The judge ruled in favor of three white women denied admission to UGA in 1999. He also ordered the university to offer the women admission and to compensate them for having to pay more money to attend other schools.
    UGA President Michael Adams called Edenfield's ruling "another step" in the legal process.
    "We respect the court and we want UGA admissions to comply with federal law," he said. "We also want to be as aggressive as possible within the law in attracting people of all races and backgrounds."
    Adams said he needs to consult with legal counsel before deciding whether to appeal the ruling and determine what impact it will have on admissions policies for future classes.
    UGA has admitted about 90 percent of its students strictly on academic performance. The rest were accepted on a combination of up to 12 characteristics, including race and gender.
    The three white female plaintiffs --- Jennifer Johnson, Aimee Bogrow and Molly Ann Beckenhauer --- would have been considered for admission had they been UGA no longer gives preferences to male applicants. But in September, Adams said the school will continue to use race-based preferences so UGA will be accessible and representative of the total state population.
    The university has modeled its admissions program on the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke, in which the late Justice Lewis Powell wrote that diversity in higher education is a compelling state interest.
    But Edenfield noted that Powell said this was necessary to overcome the lingering effects of past discrimination, and UGA is not making such an argument. UGA's defense, Edenfield said, is at odds with more recent Supreme Court decisions and involves unconstitutional racial stereotyping.

July 26, 2000

June 21, 2000

May 2000

  • Charles J. Cooper, Michael W. Kirk, and Noel J. Francisco, of the law firm Cooper, Carvin, & Rosenthal, have just completed the trial of a school desegregation case in Rockford, Illinois. In this case, a local school district is seeking "unitary status," i.e., an end to federal judicial control of the school system. Rockford's schools are in near perfect racial balance, and the school district has already spent several hundred million dollars in furtherance of the Court's orders. A decision in this case is expected sometime this Summer.
  • Insurance Redlining and Disparate Impact: The Application of a Federal Civil Rights Doctrine to Homeowners Insurance By Robert R. Detlefsen
    Allegations of inner-city insurance redlining are increasingly facilitated through the jurisprudence of "disparate impact," a legal doctrine holding that a policy or practice based on race-neutral criteria may nevertheless constitute illegal discrimination if it has a disproportionate adverse impact on racial minorities or women. Disparate impact analysis would require insurers to document a precise cause-and-effect relationship between a challenged underwriting variable and its associated risk. Moreover, they would be required to show that no "less discriminatory" risk-assessment technique is available. If it is not possible - or too costly - to meet this burden, insurers will have no choice but to abandon the use of those risk-selection practices and cost-based pricing mechanisms that yield a disparate racial impact. This will result in higher premiums and less insurance availability for consumers. Furthermore, dubious charges of unfair discrimination will exacerbate racial tensions and divert attention from the social and economic pathologies of which insurance costs are merely symptomatic.
    To read the executive summary click here:

April 2000

  • Approximately 10,000 protestors took to the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida March 7, protesting against Governor Jeb Bush’s "One Florida" plan to eliminate preferences in state contracting and university admissions. The Governor’s plan was proposed in an attempt to thwart a more comprehensive proposed ballot initiative abolishing preferences altogether, in the fashion of California’s Proposition 209 and Washington State’s Initiative 200. Indeed, at least with respect to university admissions, "One Florida" is race-conscious in that it is tailored to achieve the same artificial racial balance created by the more overt preferences it replaces. Judging by the reaction of the crowd in Tallahassee, angrily denouncing "Jeb Crow," even abolishing preferences in name only is too much for preference proponents.
  • On March 6, the day before the anti-"One Florida" rally, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments on the Florida Civil Rights Initiative ("FCRI"). Florida applies severe procedural requirements for ballot initiatives, and this is a major hurdle for FCRI to appear on the Fall 2000 ballot. Preference proponents are arguing that in addressing discrimination on the basis of race and sex, in public education, employment, and contracting, the initiative targets multiple subjects and thus violates the requirement that initiatives address only a single topic.
  • While Florida struggles with the question of whether preferences make for good public policy, courts throughout the land continue to find that preferences are unconstitutional. In December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Jackson, Mississippi’s 15% quota for utilizing minority firms in city contracts. The set-aside was not saved by a provision excusing prime contractors from meeting the quota by demonstrating "good faith efforts" to meet the "goal." W.H. Scott Construction Co. v. City of Jackson, Mississippi, 199 F.3d 206 (5th Cir. 1999). On February 8, 2000, a federal judge in New Jersey enjoined enforcement of a law that required a 15% minority "goal" in contracts for the provision of goods and services to casinos. Association for Fairness in Business, Inc. v. New Jersey, 82 F.Supp.2d 353 (D.N.J. 2000). On February 16, 2000, a federal judge in Baltimore found that city’s 20% minority and 3% woman set-asides in construction contracts unconstitutional. Associated Utility Contractors of Maryland, Inc. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 83 F.Supp.3d 613 (D.Md. 2000). And on the day of the anti-"One Florida" rally in Tallahassee, a federal judge in Denver struck down that city’s race and gender preference scheme for public works projects as unconstitutional. Concrete Works of Colorado, Inc. v. The City and County of Denver, __ F.Supp.2d ___, 2000 WL 266307 (D. Colo. March 7, 2000).
  • The impact of abolishing preferences at California’s public universities continues to be measured. At the University of California’s more competitive campuses – Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego – blacks and Latinos are being admitted at far lower rates than they were prior to the abolition of preferences. However, system-wide, Latino admissions are actually up since the abolition of preferences. Asians now constitute the largest group of incoming students at Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and UC Riverside. Without any preferences, 56% of admission offers to the University of California system are extended to women.

February 2000

  • The Downey, CA Unified School District agreed to sell advertising inside its baseball stadium. However, the school district refused to allow an ad which contained the text of the Ten Commandments. School officials claim that such an ad would have them establishing religion, in violation of the First Amendment. Edward DiLoreto, the construction executive who sought to buy the offending ad, believes the school's refusal to allow his display of the Ten Commandments violates his First Amendment Right of free school by censoring his speech in a public forum based on its content. The Ninth Circuit sided with the school district. Mr. DiLoreto will likely seek review in the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Since 1990, Texas has required high school students to pass an exit examination as a condition of receiving their diplomas. Following approximately five weeks of trial, the U.S. District Cout in San Antonio rejected a lawsuit claiming the exam is impropertly discriminatory merely because minority students tend to fare less well on the exam than their white classmates. State officials stress that the disparity in performance is attributable to societal factors, and that the gap between minority and white students is closing.
  • Two new studies have documented a strong anti-firearms bias in the national media. According to a Jeff Jacoby report, Brian Patrick of the University of Michigan used 16 different categories of bias, and concluded that the national print media provide heavily slanted coverage of the gun control issue.
  • Similarly, the Media Research Center found a very heavy slant in favor of gun control the major television networks. For the complete report, see
  • The end of affirmative action at the University of California has not, as some had feared, dissuaded minority high schools students from seeking admission. For example, Latino and black applications to the University's Berkeley campus increased by 20% and 9.7%, respectively, compared to 7.3% and 0.8% increases in applications from Asians and whites, respectively. University officials attribute the numbers to increased outreach efforts.





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