race discrimination

In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee the Supreme Court will decide whether Arizona’s refusal to count out-of-precinct votes violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and whether Arizona’s limits on third-party ballot collection violate Section 2 of the VRA and the Fifteenth Amendment.

Arizona wholly discards out-of-precinct votes instead of counting the votes for the races the voter was eligible to participate in (...

In Comcast v. National Association of African-American Owned Media the Supreme Court held unanimously that a plaintiff who sues under 42 U.S.C. §1981 must plead and prove that race was the but-for cause of his or her injury. This case is particularly relevant to states and local governments as employers. The but-for causation is a standard favorable to employers.

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The title of this article appears to be deceptive if not flat out wrong as Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media isn’t an employment case. Nevertheless, it presents an important legal question for employers because the law it involves applies to them as such. Understanding the issue in the case—whether a claim of race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 fails in the absence of but-for causation—requires a little background.

Section 1981, enacted in 1866, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in contracting and employment, among other things. It states “[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

In a 7-1 opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts the Supreme Court held in Foster v. Chatman that the prosecutor’s decision to exercise preemptory strikes against all four prospective black jurors was racially motivated in violation of Batson v. Kentucky (1986). Five previous lower court rulings on this issue disagreed.    

In 1987 Timothy Tyrone Foster, who is black, was sentenced to death for murdering, sexually assaulting, and burglarizing an elderly white woman. The jury was all-white; the prosecutor peremptorily struck all four prospective black jurors. Prosecutors may strike a number of jurors for any unstated reason except because of race and sex, the Supreme Court has held.

In Foster v. Humphries the Supreme Court will decide whether potential black jurors were purposely excluded in violation of Batson v. Kentucky.

In 1987 Timothy Tyrone Foster, who is black, was sentenced to death for murdering an elderly white woman. The jury was all-white; the prosecutor peremptorily struck all four prospective black jurors.  Prosecutors may strike a number of jurors for any unstated reason except because of race and sex, the Supreme Court has held.