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Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media
United States Supreme Court
140 S. Ct. 1009 (2020)
Byron Allen, an African American businessman, owned media company Entertainment Studios Network (ESN) (plaintiff). ESN attempted to negotiate with Comcast Corp. (defendant) so that Comcast would carry ESN television channels. Comcast eventually refused, citing a lack of demand, bandwidth restrictions, and the fact that Comcast wanted programming options that ESN did not offer. ESN sued Comcast in federal district court, asserting that Comcast discriminated against African American-owned media companies. ESN argued that although Comcast’s reasons for refusing to contract with ESN appeared legitimate, they were merely a pretext for discrimination. ESN argued that Comcast’s discriminatory conduct violated 42 USC § 1981, which states that everyone has the same right to make and enforce contracts as white citizens. The district court dismissed ESN’s claims, finding that ESN did not show that the but-for cause of ESN’s inability to successfully negotiate a contract with Comcast was Allen’s race. ESN appealed. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the district court applied an incorrect causation standard and that ESN satisfied the proper standard by pleading facts to plausibly show that race was a factor in Comcast’s decisions. Comcast appealed to the United States Supreme Court. ESN argued that § 1981 was not subject to the general rule that a plaintiff must show but-for causation to pursue a tort claim and that the court should instead apply the lesser motivating-factor causation standard established in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) in the early litigation stages.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Gorsuch, J.)
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