Pacific Legal Foundation




I

n early December, several
hundred pro-affirmative action demonstrators carrying signs reading
“Fight for Equality” gathered outside the U.S. Supreme
Court to witness an historic occasion. For the first time since
the groundbreaking 1954

Brown v. Board of Education

when
the Supreme Court ruled against separate but equal in America’s
public schools, the justices were hearing cases that could test
that landmark ruling. 


According to the Associated Press, the Supreme Court heard arguments
in two cases testing when race may be used as a basis for assigning
students to public schools. “The school policies in contention…are
designed to keep schools from segregating along the same lines as
neighborhoods,” the AP reported. In Seattle, Washington, “only
high school students are affected,” while the Louisville, Kentucky
“plan applies system-wide.” 


The

Seattle Times

pointed out that in attendance at the proceedings
was the widow of Thurgood Marshall—“the first African-American
Supreme Court justice who, as a young lawyer, argued and won the
landmark school-integration case

Brown v. Board of Education

in 1954.” Also present were Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), “who
co-authored a brief supporting the Seattle and Louisville school
districts’ use of race in assigning students to schools,”
and John Heyburn II, the U.S. district judge “who ruled in
the Louisville case.”  


In its brief to the court, the Seattle school district pointed out
that, “The plan has prevented the re-segregation that inevitably
would result from the community’s segregated housing patterns
and that most likely would produce many schools that might be perceived
as ‘failing’.” 


The Bush administration is siding with “parents who are suing
the school districts, much as it intervened on behalf of college
and graduate students who challenged affirmative action policies
before the Supreme Court in 2003,” the AP reported. 


The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), a Sacramento, Californiabased
anti-affirmative action legal organization, is aiding the Seattle
parents hoping to scuttle that city’s school integration plan.
PLF is also part of the team fighting Louisville’s school district.
“The impact of the decisions in these two cases is going to
transcend Louisville and Seattle because there are many school districts
around the country, according to studies, that continue to use race
in one degree or another in the assigning of kids to schools,”
said Harold Johnson, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney. “There
isn’t the academic support for these social engineering policies.
They may make some people feel good, but we don’t see the evidence
that they are raising achievement levels.” 









PLF
History 



F

ounded in 1973, in recent years the PLF has
been at the hub of battles against affirmative action. A PLF press
release stated: “On March 5, 1973 government regulators found
a foe; mainstream Americans found a friend; freedom in America found
new meaning. On that day, Pacific Legal Foundation was established
turning the voices that wouldn’t be heard into the voices that
couldn’t be silenced. Since then, PLF has filled the void and
has proven itself as a potent representative in the courts for Americans
who have grown weary of overregulation by big government, over-indulgence
by the courts, and excessive interference in the American way of
life.” 


In October 2006, as a way of honoring the accomplishments of Ward
Connerly and marking the ten-year anniversary of Proposition 209
(the California initiative prohibiting racial preferences in public
education), the PLF sued the Berkeley school district, “alleging
its school assignment policy violates” Prop 2. Paul Beard,
the lead lawyer for the case, called Connerly, a wealthy African
American businessperson who has spearheaded anti-affirmative action
initiatives around the country, “the spokesperson for racial
equality, in our viewpoint.” 


According to ExxonSecrets.org, PLF received initial financial support
from members of the California Chamber of Commerce and J. Simon
Fluor’s (of the Fluor Corporation) oil, nuclear, and mineral
dollars. Since 1998, PLF has received more than $100,000 from ExxonMobil.
Between 1985 and 2005, PLF received more than $5 million in grants
from right-wing foundations. Unlike most mainstream press reports
on the Supreme Court hearing, Jennifer Millman took a closer look
at the organization’s funding stream. She found that among
the organization’s consistent and largest benefactors were
influential and aggressive right-wing foundations: the Scaife Family
Foundations, the Castle Rock (Coors) Foundation, the nowdefunct
John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. 


Recently, the PLF was asked by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
Committee, the campaign organization that sponsored Proposal 2—the
Michigan anti-affirmative action initiative that was successful
in November’s election—to defend the measure against legal
challenges. Looking ahead to any potential legal battle over Proposal
2, Alan W. Foutz, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said,
“We think that most of the arguments to be hurled at it already
have been thoroughly vetted and rejected by the courts.” 


Fighting to re-segregate America is not PLF’s only battlefront.
“PLF earns its retainer by delivering law suits against such
things as Equal Rights, Endangered Species and Clean Air…. When
PLF wins a legal battle, the harm occurs almost immediately and
may be felt for decades,” Scott Silver, executive director
of Wild Wilderness, pointed out in an email exchange.






Bill
Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.