SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit challenging California's voter-approved ban on affirmative action in public university admissions.
U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti ruled against the challenge to Proposition 209, which barred racial, ethnic or gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting.
The plaintiffs argued that the law violated the civil rights of black, Latino and Native American students whose numbers have been reduced at the University of California's most prestigious campuses, particularly UCLA and UC Berkeley, since the ban passed in 1996.
According to the lawsuit, black, Latino and Native American students make up about one-quarter of the freshmen enrolled at UC's nine undergraduate campuses even though they comprise nearly half of all public high school graduates.
But the judge sided with Ward Connelly and other affirmative-action opponents who sought the lawsuit's dismissal. In his ruling, Conti said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already rejected a similar legal challenge to California's affirmative-action ban.
Connelly, a former UC Regent and Sacramento businessman, called the ruling a "powerful victory for fundamental rights."
"Everyone is owed a full measure of equal treatment, including applicants to the UC system, and indeed all students," Connelly said in a statement. "None of us should be classified by race or sex, by government."
The lawsuit was filed by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the group By Any Means Necessary and 56 California high school and college students.
Yvette Felarca, a national organizer with BAMN, said her group plans to appeal the ruling and seek support from Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, who opposes the affirmative-action ban.
"We're not going to stop our fight to end the increasing racial inequality and segregation that Proposition 209 has created," Felarca said. "We cannot have an apartheid-like admissions system in California."
UC spokesman Steve Montiel said university attorneys were not available for comment Wednesday.
In August, the California Supreme Court also upheld the state's affirmative action ban, rejecting arguments from the city of San Francisco and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown that the law violates federal equality protections.