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Opponents of workplace diversity programs are increasingly banking on a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to challenge equity policies as well as funding to minority-owned businesses.

Section 1981 of the act was originally meant to protect formerly enslaved people — or Black people specifically — from economic exclusion. But now the American Alliance for Equal Rights — a group run by Edward Blum, the conservative activist who challenged affirmative action in higher education and won — is citing the section to go after a venture capital fund called the Fearless Fund, which invests in businesses owned by women of color. A federal appeals court temporarily blocked funding for Fearless Fund’s grant program as the case proceeds.

Conservative activists have brought lawsuits using the 1981 section against other companies and institutions, including insurance company Progressive and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. The cases are being monitored carefully as the battle over racial considerations shift to the workplace following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling ending affirmative action in college admissions.

While the 1981 section had been used well before the latest affirmative action ruling to prove reverse discrimination, Alphonso David, Fearless Fund’s legal counsel who serves as president & CEO of The Global Black Economic Forum, said that there’s a “coordinated use of Section 1981 now that we did not see before.”

What is Section 1981?

The 1866 Civil Rights Act is a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, and ethnicity when making and enforcing contracts. Section 1981 specifically grants all individuals within the U.S. jurisdiction the same rights and benefits as “enjoyed by white citizens” regarding contractual relationships.

However, the Supreme Court’s 1976 McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transportation decision broadened those protections, ruling Section 1981 prohibits racial discrimination in private employment against white people as well as people of color.

“It’s a very clever game plan,” said Randolph McLaughlin, a civil rights attorney and law professor at Pace University, referring to the use of the 1866 law. “They want to turn civil rights law upside down.”

The standard of proof for the 1981 section is high. That’s because of the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Comcast v. National Association of African American-owned Media establishing that the plaintiff who sues for racial discrimination under the section bears the burden of showing that race was the central cause in denying a contract opportunity — as opposed to merely a motivating factor.


California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Thursday sued an anti-abortion group and a chain of anti-abortion counseling centers, saying the organizations misled women when they offered them unproven treatments to reverse medication abortions.

Heartbeat International, a national anti-abortion group, and RealOptions Obria, which has five anti-abortion counseling centers in Northern California, used “fraudulent and misleading claims” to advertise a procedure called abortion pill reversal, according to the lawsuit. Abortion pill reversal treatments are unproven, largely experimental and have no scientific backing, Bonta said in the lawsuit.

“Those who are struggling with the complex decision to get an abortion deserve support and trustworthy guidance — not lies and misinformation,” Bonta said.

Heartbeat International and RealOptions’ deceptive advertising of abortion pill reversal treatments violates California’s False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law, the lawsuit said. The suit seeks an injunction to block further dissemination of the claims by the defendants, as well as other remedies and penalties available under state law, according to Bonta’s office.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence and lack of certainty about its safety, Heartbeat International and RealOptions falsely and illegally advertise the treatment as a valid and successful option, and do not alert patients to possible side effects, such as the risk of severe bleeding, the lawsuit further said.



A Texas appeals court on Friday dismissed a billionaire’s defamation lawsuit against Democrat Beto O’Rouke that was brought after O’Rourke criticized a $1 million campaign contribution to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The ruling by the Third Court of Appeals in Austin comes more than a year after O’Rourke repeatedly made critical remarks about the donation during a failed run for governor, at one point saying that it “looks like a bribe to me.”

The contribution came from Kelcy Warren, chairman of pipeline company Energy Transfer, which reported about $2.4 billion in earnings related to the catastrophic February 2021 winter storm that sent natural gas prices soaring in Texas.

Warren, a major Republican donor, accused O’Rourke of trying to humiliate him and discourage other Abbott supporters from making campaign donations.

In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice Darlene Byrne wrote that a reasonable person would view O’Rourke’s statements as “the type of rhetorical hyperbole that is commonplace in political campaigns.”

Dean Pamphilis, an attorney for Warrren, said the decision would be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

Abbott’s campaign said at the time that it was not involved in the lawsuit. The governor went on to easily beat O’Rourke and win a third term.


A federal appeals court in a rare move overturned the death sentence of a man who was convicted of robbing and killing two people in Fresno in 1988, saying prosecutors knowingly presented false testimony from a key witness.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in its Wednesday ruling upheld Colin Dickey’s robbery conviction and said prosecutors could decide whether to retry him for murder. Dickey remains in prison.

“This is an exceptional case in which the prosecutor deliberately elicited, and then failed to correct, false and misleading testimony from the State’s star witness,” the court said in a ruling overturning Dickey’s 1991 death sentence.

The Fresno County prosecutor elicited the testimony from key witness Gene Buchanan, who told the jury he had not met with prosecutors or accepted any benefits from them. In fact, the court said, they had met a dozen times during the investigation, and the district attorney’s office had dismissed drug charges against him and helped him collect a $5,000 reward for implicating Dickey, one of his roommates.

Dickey was convicted in the murders of two neighbors, Marie Caton, 76, and Louis Freiri, 67, who were beaten and stabbed to death in November 1988 at Caton’s home in Fresno, where Freiri was a boarder, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Both Dickey and Buchanan lived with Caton’s grandson, Richard Cullumber, who according to witnesses was a drug user who frequently requested money from Caton. Five days after the attack, the court said, Cullumber fled police in a car, said he had “killed a woman,” was cornered after a high-speed chase and shot himself to death.

According to another roommate, Dickey said he had gone to Caton’s house with Cullumber to help him get the money but had nothing to do with the killings. But Buchanan testified that Dickey told him he was at the scene of the attacks, saw Freiri lying with his head slumped down, and decided that “if you kill one you might as well kill them both.”

Buchanan’s testimony “was the centerpiece of the state’s case” and without his dubious statements, “the state’s case against Dickey was weak” and lacked any direct evidence of intent to kill, Judge Morgan Christen said in the 3-0 ruling.


Courts this week blocked abortion restrictions from taking effect in two states, while lawmakers in a third are forging ahead with a plan for a new ban that’s less stringent than most.

Those are some of the latest developments in an abortion landscape that is being crafted by lawmakers, governors and courts across the country in the aftermath of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and the nationwide right to an abortion.

Some things to know:

NORTH CAROLINA GOP LAWMAKERS GET ON SAME PAGE

North Carolina lawmakers said they have agreed to new abortion restrictions that would be among the least onerous adopted since last year.

The bill, a GOP priority which passed the House on Wednesday, would ban abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions in cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormality. The current exception for cases where the life of the pregnant woman is in danger would remain. The state currently bans abortion in most cases after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has indicated that he would veto the measure, which he called “an egregious, unacceptable attack on the women of our state.”

But after one state lawmaker flipped from the Democratic Party last month to become Republican, the GOP has veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.

COURTS REBUFF NOVEL RESTRICTIONS

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte’s administration and lawmakers in Utah were testing some abortion restrictions that are outside what other Republican-led states are doing.

In Montana, a new rule would have required doctors to provide documentation showing that an abortion was medically necessary due to rape, incest or a threat to the health of the pregnant woman before the state’s Medicaid program would have paid for it.

In Utah, where a ban on abortions at all stages of pregnancy is already on hold as a court considers its legality, lawmakers passed a ban on abortion clinics.

Abortion-rights advocates in both states said the restrictions would have gone too far.

In rulings this week, judges nixed both ideas, at least while courts decide whether they’re legal.


A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the government can’t stop people who have domestic violence restraining orders against them from owning guns — the latest domino to fall after the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority set new standards for reviewing the nation’s gun laws.

Police in Texas found a rifle and a pistol at the home of a man who was the subject of a civil protective order that banned him from harassing, stalking or threatening his ex-girlfriend and their child. The order also banned him from having guns.

A federal grand jury indicted the man, who pled guilty. He later challenged his indictment, arguing the law that prevented him from owning a gun was unconstitutional. At first, a federal appeals court ruled against him, saying that it was more important for society to keep guns out of the hands of people accused of domestic violence than it was to protect a person’s individual right to own a gun.

But then last year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a new ruling in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. That case set new standards for interpreting the Second Amendment by saying the government had to justify gun control laws by showing they are “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The appeals court withdrew its original decision and on Thursday decided to vacate the man’s conviction and ruled the federal law banning people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from owning guns was unconstitutional.

Specifically, the court ruled that the federal law was an “outlier that our ancestors would never have accepted” — borrowing a quote from the Bruen decision.

The decision came from a three-judge panel consisting of Judges Cory Wilson, James Ho and Edith Jones. Wilson and Ho were nominated by former Republican President Donald Trump, while Jones was nominated by former Republican President Ronald Reagan.


A Pennsylvania judge has recommended the state’s high court impose civil contempt penalties against a Republican-majority county government that this summer secretly allowed a third party to copy data from voting machines used in the 2020 election lost by former President Donald Trump.

Commonwealth Court President Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer’s 77-page report issued late Friday said the July inspection and copying of computer data from machines rented by Fulton County was a willful violation of a court order designed to prevent evidence from being spoiled.

She recommended that the justices find that the county, based on the actions of Republican Commissioners Stuart Ulsh and Randy Bunch, “engaged in vexatious, obdurate, and bad faith conduct” in their lawsuit against the Department of State over whether a 2021 inspection by another outside group meant the machines could no longer be used.

Cohn Jubelirer, an elected Republican, recommended that the county be ordered to pay some of the state’s legal fees and that the Dominion Voting Systems Inc. machines in question be turned over to a third party for safekeeping at the county’s expense.

Dominion has been the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories about the election supposedly being stolen from Trump. It has since filed a number of defamation lawsuits against his allies and right-wing broadcasters.

Messages seeking comment were left Friday and Saturday for Pottstown lawyer Thomas J. Carroll, who represents Fulton County, Ulsh and Bunch. Messages were left Saturday for Ulsh, and Bunch did not answer his phone.

The judge noted that during a three-day hearing earlier this month, Ulsh and Bunch invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination “in response to the vast majority of questions asked of them on direct examination.”

Cohn Jubelirer’s report was commissioned by the state Supreme Court after lawyers for acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman sought a contempt order. The request for the order was based on Bunch and Ulsh’s disclosure in separate litigation in September that Speckin Forensics LLC of Lansing, Michigan, had copied hard drives in July from Democracy Suite 5.5A voting machines that Fulton County had rented from Dominion.

The Department of State ordered the county to stop using its rented Dominion machines after Bunch and Ulsh allowed one group, Wake TSI, access to them as part of an effort to help Trump’s failed efforts to reverse his defeat. Fulton County, Bunch and Ulsh sued to challenge the state’s order that the machines could not be used in future elections, and Fulton County has since been using other machines.

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