Sixth Circuit Strikes Down Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

In a divided opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Michigan’s Proposal 2, aka the “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.” Proposal 2 was a successful ballot initiative that provides that the state, including state educational institutions, may not “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.” Judge Cole, joined by Judge Daughtrey, held that the proposal is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. Specifically, the initiative is invalid under Washington v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 458 U.S. 457 (1982) and Hunter v. Erickson, 393 U.S. 385 (1969) because it “unconstitutionally alters Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.” Judge Gibbons dissented. The decision in Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Regents of the University of Michigan is here.

I am quite confident this is not the last we have heard of this case, and will be quite surprised if this decision is ultimately sustained. Given the panel and the holding, I think there is a reasonable likelihood of it going en banc, and if this opinion is not overturned en banc, I would think that this case — or perhaps the similar case challenging the equivalent California initiative — will go to the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: According to this story, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette will file a petition for rehearing en banc.