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Fullilove v. Klutznick

The Facts Of The Case

Congress had long struggled with the problem of discrimination within the construction industry. Although they made up over ten percent of the population, minority business owners often found themselves shut out of the building trades sector in favor of their white counterparts. In 1977, Congress enacted the Public Works Employment Act to address these grievances. The law provided for a "set-aside" of ten percent of all federal monies for construction to go to minority-owned businesses. This provision was challenged in court by H. Earl Fullilove and a group of non-minority contractors. They claimed that they had sustained economic injury due to the enforcement of the 10 percent set-aside provision. In their view, the program violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as their right not to be discriminated against under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Named as the respondent in their suit was Philip M. Klutznick, U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Fullilove and the other contractors first took their case to the U.S. district court. They sought to have the Public Works Employment Act declared unconstitutional and an injunction invoked to prohibit dispersal of more federal money to minority contractors. The district court dismissed these claims, decreeing the set-aside program valid under the Constitution. The case then proceeded to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's judgment on all counts. Fullilove and his co-petitioners had one last avenue of recourse: the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Fullilove v. Klutznick - The Facts Of The Case, The Supreme Court Decides, The Dissenting Opinion, Public Works Employment Act