Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Private Rights of Action Appear Harder to Come By

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Private Rights of Action Appear Harder to Come By

Article excerpt

In a 5-4 decision that might have wider application than simply to the case before it, the U.S. Supreme Court held that private individuals do not a private cause of action to enforce disparate impact rules promulgated by the Justice Department pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Alexander v. Sandoval, 121 S.Ct. 1511 (2001).

The Alabama Department of Transportation subjected itself to Title VI by accepting grants of financial assistance from the federal government. Section 601 of Title VI provides that no person shall, "on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity" covered by the title. Section 602 authorizes federal agencies "to effectuate" the provisions of Section 601 "by issuing rules, regulations or orders of general applicability." This the Department of Justice did by a regulation forbidding funding recipients from using "criteria or methods of administration because of their race, color or national origin."

In a private class action, a group of plaintiffs attempted to enforce this regulation by claiming that Alabama's administration of its driver's license examination in English only discriminated against non-English speakers on the ground of national origin, thus leveling a disparate impact on that group. The federal district court bought the private action, 7 F. …

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