Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Memo Advises Agencies on Affirmative Action Many Programs Will Fall, Employees Suspect

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Memo Advises Agencies on Affirmative Action Many Programs Will Fall, Employees Suspect

Article excerpt

THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT raised the prospect Wednesday that many federal affirmative action programs could not survive a constitutional challenge.

A 37-page memo was sent to top legal officers of all government departments and commissions. It is the first "preliminary" attempt by the government to assess the effects of the Supreme Court's recent 5-4 ruling that federal programs based on race must satisfy the toughest constitutional test or cease to exist.

The memo, by Assistant Attorney General Walter E. Dellinger, is to guide the agencies' legal staffs in assessing whether to keep, alter or drop 160 federal programs that use race as a factor in deciding who receives public benefits, including jobs, contracts and money.

No program should be cast aside until after it has been analyzed under the new Justice Department guidelines, Dellinger said. Moreover, President Bill Clinton and White House aides are engaged in their own study of affirmative action plans, a study that may result in new government policies.

Dellinger's office does not operate solely as a legal counselor within the Justice Department. Its role is to give legal advice that the entire executive branch is expected to follow on major legal and constitutional issues that affect government.

The Dellinger memo did not point to any particular program that would be in trouble. But it did indicate that these types are now most vulnerable to challenge:

Plans set up by agencies on their own without being ordered to do so explicitly by Congress. …

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