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Governor files legal opinion against ban on affirmative action

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday added his voice in support of a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s ban on racial affirmative action in public university admissions.

In a legal brief, Brown said that minorities face too high a barrier in efforts to overturn Proposition 209, which voters approved in 1996, because it is part of the state Constitution and not just a law or university policy. In addition, he noted a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said race could be considered in state college admissions if it did not involve quotas or carry predetermined weight in decisions.

Last week, a federal appeals court struck down Michigan's ban on considering race and gender in college admissions, but that matter is expected to continue up the court ladder and does not affect California. A similar case seeking to overturn California’s Prop. 209 is in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the ban in 1997.

George Washington, a Detroit-based attorney arguing against the affirmative action bans in both states, said Friday that he was heartened by Brown’s opinion and that it would help the case. “It is very, very important,” he said of the governor's action.

Ward Connerly, the former University of California regent who helped draft Prop. 209, said he does not think the Brown brief will have any effect on the court. “This is strictly political,” he said of Brown’s action.

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-- Larry Gordon

 
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