The Supreme Court will hear case that could make it more difficult to bring a race discrimination challenge.
The case concerns a dispute between Entertainment Studios Network, an African American-owned media company that owns and operates television, against Comcast and Charter Communications.
Entertainment Studios owns several networks that it wants to have carried on Comcast and Charter cable system. The companies ultimately declined to carry the networks. Entertainment Studios sued claiming race discrimination.
“The specific issue in this case is exactly what plaintiffs have to show to make out a race-discrimination claim under one of the more significant federal civil rights statutes,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
“The question is whether it is enough, as the lower court held here, for a plaintiff to show that race was a significant factor in the defendant’s allegedly discriminatory conduct, or whether, as the challengers are arguing, race must be the sole reason why the challenged conduct was undertaken,” Vladeck added. “How the justices answer that question could have enormous ramifications for similar race discrimination claims going forward.”
In briefs their lawyers argued “after years of being passed over for white-owned networks, Entertainment Studios sued Comcast for racial discrimination in contracting” in violation of federal law.
A district court dismissed the complaint, but the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and allowed the claim to go forward. Charter and Comcast are asking the Supreme Court to reverse arguing the decision not to carry the channels were based on “legitimate business reasons, such as limited bandwith and other operational considerations.” Having “failed to secure carriage on the merits” lawyers for Charter Communications argued, Entertainment Studios “sued and leveled sensational allegations of racial discrimination.”
Neither Comcast, Charter, Entertainment Studios Networks nor the National Association of African American Owned Media immediately responded to a request for comment on the court’s decision to hear the case.