State’s Race-Based Medical Scholarships Violate Proposition 209

News Release, Pacific Legal Foundation, October 12, 2009

News Release

Contact: Joshua P. Thompson

Attorney

Pacific Legal Foundation

[email protected]

(916) 419-7111

SACRAMENTO, CA; October 12, 2009: Pacific Legal Foundation announced today that a Sacramento Superior Court judge has struck down the racially discriminatory elements of a state health-professional scholarship program.

Judge Rudolph Loncke’s ruling, in a case brought by PLF attorneys, allows the state to continue awarding health related scholarships, but without any preferences or discrimination by race. The case is titled Smith v. CA Health and Human Services Agency.

The ruling concerns the “Health Professions Education Foundation,” an entity established by the Legislature under Health and Safety Code Section 128330 to award scholarships and loans for study in medicine, nursing, or dentistry. The PLF lawsuit was launched because the program used race in deciding who would get the scholarships, specifying favoritism for “underrepresented minorities.”

As Judge Loncke ruled, this race-based provision violated Proposition 209 (Article I, Section 31(a) of the California Constitution). Enacted by voters in 1996, Proposition 209 prohibits discrimination or preferences by race or sex in public education programs (as well as in public contracting and employment).

PLF is the nation’s leading legal watchdog that litigates against government discrimination and preferences by race and sex, and has been the primary enforcer of Proposition 209 in California courts.

“This ruling recognizes that government should not make distinctions between people on the basis of their skin color when it awards benefits or assistance,” said PLF attorney Joshua P. Thompson. “Treating everyone equally, without regard to race, is what fairness demands–and what the California Constitution commands.”

The scholarship program has been on the books since 1996, before the enactment of Proposition 209. “In a sense, this legal case amounts to statutory cleanup,” said PLF’s Thompson. “We’re making sure that nothing remains on the statute books that contradicts the will of the voters as expressed in Proposition 209, which ordered that the state cannot discriminate” he said.

PLF attorneys represented James Smith, a Madera County nurse who was unsuccessful in seeking a scholarship under the challenged program. Mr. Smith filed the lawsuit in his capacity as a California taxpayer objecting to discriminatory, unconstitutional policies in state government.

This case, invalidating the state’s race-based medical scholarships as violating Proposition 209, is titled Smith v. CA Health and Human Services Agency. Judge Loncke’s signed order is available at PLF’s Web site: www.pacificlegal.org.

About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is the oldest and most successful public interest legal organization that litigates for property rights, limited government, and a balanced approach to environmental protection, in courts across the country.

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