Arce v. Douglas

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 07-07-2015
  • Case #: 13-15657, 13-15760
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Rakoff for the Court; Circuit Judges Noonan and Clifton
  • Full Text Opinion

The Arlington Heights factors should be used by courts to determine whether a defendant has acted with a discriminatory purpose.

The Tucson school district implemented the Mexican American Studies (“MAS”) program in Tucson public schools to inform its students about Mexican or other Hispanic cultural heritage – sixty percent of the children enrolled in the Tucson public schools were of Mexican or other Hispanic descent. Arizona state superintendents of education sponsored and implemented legislation eliminating MAS on the grounds that the program promoted ethnocentrism and reverse racism. The district court granted the plaintiff, a student, a motion for summary judgment regarding First Amendment overbredth of the Arizona Revised Statute § 15-112, but the district court denied motions for the plaintiff’s claims that the defendants violated their equal protection and that the statute in question constituted First Amendment vagueness. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined whether enforcement of the statute was discriminatorily motivated. Applying prior precedent from Arlington Heights, defendants act with discriminatory purposes when (1) the action impacts one race more heavily than another; (2) the historical background of the decision; (3) the specific sequence of events leading to the challenged action; (4) the defendant’s departures from normal procedures or substantive conclusions; and (5) relevant legislative or administrative histories. When viewing these factors in a light most favorably to the plaintiffs, the panel held that the parties presented sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact that the statute was at least partially intended to discriminate against MAS students based on the students’ race or national origin. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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