Supreme Court may allow TV producer's racial bias

www.latimes.com
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Supreme Court and civil rights: debating the proof of racial bias
Supreme Court justices heard a major racial bias case Wednesday and struggled over whether to make it harder or easier for a black entrepreneur to sue and win a discrimination suit under the nation's oldest civil rights law.

They were hearing appeals from two cable TV giants which sought to block billion-dollar suits filed by Byron Allen and his Entertainment Studios Networks, alleging Comcast and Charter Communications had refused to carry his channels because he is an African American.

But during the hourlong argument, the justices sounded ready to send the suits back to Los Angeles to allow them to proceed in federal court -- but without weighing in on who should win in the end.

Justice Elena Kagan said Allen may not have enough evidence now to prove that he was turned away by Comcast because of his race. But he cited adequate reasons to think race may have been a "motivating factor" in the decision, she said.

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"This is a complaint," she said. "The plaintiff is not going to know what the defendant was thinking about in making whatever contract decisions the defendant was making.... It's enough to say they made a racist remark and they gave contracts to lots of white firms that weren't as good as our firm."

Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada, representing Comcast, disagreed and urged the justices to rule that a civil rights suit…
David G. Savage
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