NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Clinton Appointees Flout The Law

March 2, 1997

Legal experts charge Clinton administration appointees are directing Texas officials to defy a federal court order. Norma Cantu, head of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, instructed the University of Texas to continue using preferential race-based programs ruled unconstitutional last year by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Hopwood v. University of Texas -- or say good-bye to some $500 million in federal educational aid.

Ms. Cantu, former regional counsel for the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, claims that Hopwood prohibits only the dual-track admissions program at the University's Law School.

  • But legal scholars say the decision held that state institutions may consider race in admissions only to remedy specific acts of past discrimination.
  • Further, a state may not employ racial preferences to remedy the effects of societal discrimination or even discrimination by the state system of education as a whole.
  • Nor may a state employ racial preferences to achieve a diversity of views or backgrounds among its students, however laudable that objective might otherwise be.
  • Last July, the Supreme Court declined to overturn this ruling -- making Hopwood binding law in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Observers say that Ms. Cantu is not the only Clinton appointee willfully ignoring federal civil rights decisions.

  • After a federal district court last April suspended the Houston transportation authority's affirmative action plan -- concluding that it likely was unconstitutional -- the Federal Transit Authority announced it would suspend all grants to Houston on the grounds that it lacked an affirmative action program that complied with federal regulations.
  • Then there is the U. S. Department of Justice, which recently expressed the view that a federal agency need not defer to courts of appeals decisions "either generally or in matters arising in the particular circuit."

Source: Terence J. Pell (Center for Individual Rights), "Texas Must Choose Between a Court Order and a Clinton Edict," Wall Street Journal, April 2, 1997.


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