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Advocates File Appeal in MTC Discrimination Case

3:11 PM PDT on April 23, 2009

_1.jpgTransit justice advocates at a 2004 rally nine months before the suit was filed. Photo by Public Advocates Inc.

Nearly a month after a San Francisco federal judge ruled against a discrimination lawsuit against the MTC on behalf of AC Transit riders of color, attorneys representing a broad coalition of riders, labor and environmental justice advocates have appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. 

"We're not done fighting," said plaintiff and AC Transit rider Sylvia Darensburg of East Oakland.

As we noted in our original post, the lawsuit claims the MTC has a long history
of channeling funding to mostly white riders on Caltrain and BART at
the expense of AC Transit bus riders of color. It named as the plaintiffs Darensburg, Vivian Hain of Berkeley and Virginia Martinez of Richmond, along with Communities for a Better Environment and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192.

In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Laporte said she sympathizes with
the plaintiffs but "the MTC has met its burden of showing a
substantial legitimate justification for the challenged funding
practices." Even though she sided with the MTC, advocates point out it's significant that she noted the "disparate impact" MTC's funding practices have had on AC Transit riders of color. 

From the press release:

While vindicating minority bus riders’ claims in some respects, the judge accepted MTC’s excuse that the discriminatory impact of its decisions was outweighed by other goals.

Plaintiffs intend to argue on appeal that the Court applied the wrong legal standard in concluding that MTC had adequately justified the discriminatory impacts of its decisions.

“The trial court held MTC to too low a standard,” said Adrienne Bloch of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). “Civil rights laws require that when otherwise lawful actions have a discriminatory impact on racial minorities, they must meet a much stricter standard of justification; there must be a ‘necessity’.”

Randy Rentschler, a spokesperson for the MTC, said in response to the appeal: "This action was expected and we’ll deal with it as we must as a public agency."

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