The Supreme Court docket introduced on Monday that it will hear Comcast Corp. v. Nationwide Affiliation of African American-Owned Media, which seeks to undercut one of many nation’s oldest civil rights legal guidelines.
Given the courtroom’s Republican majority, this case is more likely to finish badly for civil rights plaintiffs. Although it’s an open query whether or not the courtroom will make a surgical lower in opposition to a specific anti-discrimination regulation — or whether or not they may nuke a significant prong of American anti-discrimination litigation.
Comcast entails a cable firm that allegedly refused to hold a black-owned tv studio’s networks in violation of a post-Civil Warfare statute barring race discrimination in contracts.
Corporations are not often monoliths, and when an organization takes an antagonistic motion in opposition to an individual of colour (or one other firm owned by folks of colour) they usually have a wide range of causes for doing so. Some executives, for instance, could also be pushed by racist motives, whereas others could act for respectable enterprise causes. Because of this, the regulation permits what are generally known as “mixed-motive” fits, which permit civil rights plaintiffs to prevail in some circumstances the place they face discrimination for a mixture of each respectable and unlawful causes.
The Comcast case asks the Supreme Court docket to carry that claims beneath the Reconstruction-era ban on contract discrimination should present “but-for causation.” That’s, for a plaintiff to prevail, they need to present that, within the absence of racist motivations, they’d have been handled otherwise. That’s usually very tough to show, because it basically requires plaintiffs to show that occasions would have been totally different had everybody been dwelling in an alternate actuality.
Below present regulation, if a plaintiff reveals that the defendant had combined motives, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to indicate that they’d have made the identical selections within the absence of invidious motives. If the defendant can’t meet this burden of proof, they could be held liable for his or her actions.
Even earlier than the Supreme Court docket took a tough proper flip beneath President Donald Trump, its Republican majority was very hostile to mixed-motive fits. Certainly, the courtroom already eradicated these fits in age discrimination circumstances and in circumstances alleging retaliation in opposition to individuals who allege employment discrimination. So it’s exceedingly seemingly that there can be 5 votes to get rid of them beneath the Reconstruction period regulation.
The open query is whether or not the Supreme Court docket may also get rid of mixed-motive fits in all civil rights contexts. Ought to they achieve this, it will spark off a authorized earthquake that would go away many victims of discrimination with out reduction.
This is able to even be completely in keeping with the Roberts Court docket’s dismissive perspective in direction of allegations of race discrimination.