Minnick v. California Department of Corrections

RESPONDENT: California Department of Corrections
LOCATION: U.S. Department of State

DOCKET NO.: 79-1213
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 452 US 105 (1981)
ARGUED: Dec 02, 1980
DECIDED: Jun 01, 1981

Ronald Yank - on behalf of the Petitioners
Stuart R. Pollak - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Minnick v. California Department of Corrections

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 02, 1980 in Minnick v. California Department of Corrections

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments first this morning in Minnick v. California Department of Corrections.

Mr. Yank, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Ronald Yank:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Thirty years ago was the last time this Court had the opportunity in a constitutional contest to consider the issue of reverse discrimination in employment.

At that time this Court and the California Supreme Court agreed that a group could not force upon an employer the premise that that employer had to have a particular racial composition of that employer's work force which would match the service population.

Then too the Court was looking at a case from California.

The case was Hughes v. Superior Court of California, 339 U.S. 460.

And at that time the employer was Lucky Stores, and it was an attempt to have Lucky's have its store in Richmond, California, have its work force mirror the racial composition of the people who shop there, in Richmond, California.

And this Court, and the California Supreme Court, sustained a permanent injunction declaring at that time that such a goal of requiring such mirroring was an unlawful purpose as articulated under California law.

Why, then, 30 years later are we back?

The reason that we are back obviously has to do with the intervening events of the past decades, intervening struggles that counsel on both sides of the case here agree with, and support.

What has come out of the struggles of the intervening years, of these intervening decades, has been a strategy of how to indeed achieve the results we all want to see, which is to see people judged without regard to their race or color but simply with regard to their abilities.

Before you is a strategy of how to get there which petitioners feel in fact is a step away from the society, from the goals that we all want to see.

What we have before you is the result of a strategy of social engineering wherein the California Department of Corrections has attempted to have its work force mirror racially the inmate population or service population of the Department.

Justice Skelly Wright in a recent Law Review article in the University of Chicago Law Review has challenged those of us who oppose reverse discrimination saying that we talk in only abstract principles, but we don't get down to talking about social realities and, indeed, the facts.

I want to take on that challenge and speak of the facts of this case.

The case before you is not about remedying prior discrimination.

That is not this case.

In 1974 when the Department adopted its affirmative action program and then started to carry it out as we had described, in fact, black persons were over-represented in the work force of the Department of Corrections, as were orientals and as were people who would be called "others".

This was not a lily-white work force.

This was indeed an integrated work force.

There has never been the slightest hint in the record that there was not already sufficient minorities and women throughout the Department to handle any sorts of peculiar or specialized assignments that the Department somehow requires.

The program here was carried out not by low-level people who somehow misunderstood the goals and objectives of the Department.

It was carried out at the direction, and indeed the energetic behest of top management.

Top management said that the goals would be met "or else".

It's the Director of the Department talking.

The Director stated that if goals were not met,

"their own positions might be on the line. "

On this record any distinction between supposed goals and quotas is an illusory distinction.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Mr. Yank, may I ask you, this case involves only promotion or transfer, does not involve new hirings, does it?