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Morton v. Mancari

Preferences And The Fifth Amendment

Shortly after introduction of the new BIA promotion policy and passage of the EEO Act, several non-Native American employees of the BIA office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, including Mancari, filed a class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on behalf of themselves and other non-Native employees. The suit named as defendants the secretary of the interior, the commissioner of Indian affairs, and the BIA directors for the Albuquerque and Navajo area offices. Mancari and the others raised two issues. First, they argued, the 1972 EEO Act repealed the various Native American preference laws passed since 1834. Secondly, they claimed the preference policies under the 1934 IRA directly violated equal protection under the Fifth Amendment by depriving them of their right to opportunities for job promotions and should, therefore, be declared unconstitutional. Mancari argued that implementation and enforcement of the 1972 BIA preference policy affecting job promotions "placed and will continue to place [non-Native employees] at a distinct disadvantage in competing for promotion and training programs with Indian employees, all of which has and will continue to subject the [non-Native employees] to discrimination and deny them equal employment opportunity."

In assessing how the BIA implemented the preference policy, the district court concluded that the repeal of Native American preference laws could indeed be implied from the 1972 EEO Act. However, if Congress repealed the preference laws, then their constitutionality need not be determined. In its decision, the district court prohibited "any policy in the [BIA] which would hire, promote, or reassign any person in preference to another solely for the reason that such a person is an Indian." Secretary of Interior Rogers Clark Morton immediately appealed to the Supreme Court which was out of session. In August of 1973, Justice Marshall temporarily blocked the district court's decision from taking effect until the full Court could hear the case in its next regular session combined with a similar case.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Morton v. Mancari - Significance, Preferences And The Fifth Amendment, Native Americans Not Ethnic, Impact