New caselaw - prisons, Equal Protection; bilingual education, Proposition 227

[JURIST] Johnson v. California [PDF opinion] (February 25, US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals [official website]). A panel of the Court ruled that a prison reception center housing policy which used race as one factor in assigning a new inmate's initial cell mate for 60 days did not violate the Equal Protection Clause: "Although there may be many ways in which to achieve the state’s objective in reducing racial violence in the CDC [California Department of Corrections], the path chosen by the State of California is reasonably related to the administrators’ concern for racial violence and thus must be upheld. If this policy were implemented beyond the prison walls, undoubtedly, we would strike it down as unconstitutional. The prison system, however, is inherently different and we must defer our judgment to that of the prison administrators until presented evidence demonstrating the unreasonableness of the administrators’ policy."

Valeria v. Davis [PDF opinion] (February 25, US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals [official website]). The Court refused to rehear this case involving Proposition 227 en banc on grounds that the Proposition on its face did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Judges Pegerson and Paez dissented, insisting that "Proposition 227’s reallocation of political power with respect to an issue with a racial focus violates the Constitution.... The initiative, passed by California voters in 1998, effectively eliminated bilingual instruction in California public schools. Now part of the California Education Code, Proposition 227 restructures the political process by shifting authority over bilingual education from local educational agencies to the state. Before the passage of Proposition 227, public school students and their parents could effect change at the local level. Now they must launch a successful statewide ballot initiative to bring about any meaningful modification in bilingual education policy. By affecting only those interested in bilingual education, this political restructuring violates the “political structure” equal protection doctrine...".

 

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