Court upholds Michigan's Prop. 2

Says voters did not violate U.S. Constitution

In a major victory for Center for Individual Rights client Eric Russell, U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson today upheld Michigan’s Prop. 2.

In a 55 page opinion Lawson said Michigan voters did not violate the U.S. Constitution when they voted to ban racial preferences in all state programs.

Lawson’s ruling follows a protracted legal battle between a Michigan advocacy organization called “BAMN”, the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc., Michigan’s Governor and its three major universities allied against the Michigan Attorney General and the Center for Individual Rights.

In today’s ruling, Judge Lawson rejected two major challenges to Prop. 2.

First, the BAMN group of plaintiffs challenged Prop. 2 on the grounds that it was passed with a discriminatory intent and would have a disparate impact on minorities by reducing the number of minority students attending Michigan colleges and universities. Second, the ACLU/NAACP plaintiffs challenged Prop. 2 on the grounds that it places an undue burden on the ability of minority groups to effect changes in policy because it alters the political structure with regard to the use of racial preferences.

Lawson ruled that Prop. 2 was passed for a variety of non discrimintoyr reasons, including the view that racial preferences are harmful to minority students. He said, “To impugn the motives of 58% of Michigan’s electorate, in the absence of extraordinary circumstances which do not exist here, simply is not warranted on this record.” p. 42

Lawson also ruled that while Prop. 2 makes it more difficult for minority citizens to obtain preferential treatment it does not make it more difficult for minorities to achieve “equal protection.” As such, Prop. 2 does not impose an unconstitutional political burden on minorities. Lawson followed the reasoning employed by the Ninth Circuit when it upheld California’s Prop. 209 against a similar challenge. He quoted with approval the Ninth Circuit’s view that “It is one thing to say that individuals have equal protection rights against political obstructions to equal protection; it is quite another to say that individuals have equal protection rights against political obstructions to preferential treatment.” p. 49.

CIR President Terence Pell commented, “Judge Lawson painstakingly examined all the legal challenges to Prop. 2 and rejected each of them. Hopefully, this will bring to an end the extraordinary efforts of various advocacy organizations determined undermine the 58% of the Michigan voters who voted to end racial preferences across the board.”