Later this year, the California Supreme Court will consider City of San Jose v. Hi-Voltage Wire Works Inc ., a challenge to an affirmative action program for municipal contracting. Among the filings is a little-noticed amicus brief by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. It is a depressing document.

At issue in this case is whether San Jose’s contracting program violates California’s Proposition 209. The controversial 1996 ballot initiative added these words to the state constitution: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

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