Connerly v. CaliforniaAnnotate this Case
This case centered two policy issues that are often viewed as controversial: (1) racial, ethnic, and gender preferences; and (2) the decennial redistricting process. In 2008 and 2010, the People of California, exercising their reserved initiative powers, changed the way California's State Senate, State Assembly, Congressional, and Board of Equalization voting districts are adjusted after each national census, assigning the corresponding duties to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Plaintiffs Ward Connerly and the American Civil Rights Foundation (collectively, Connerly) sued defendants State of California (State), the State Auditor, and the Commission, alleging the method of selecting members of the Commission violated Proposition 209 (Cal. Const., art. I, sec. 31), in that it gave improper preferences based on race, ethnicity, and gender. Connerly then filed an amended complaint, again asserting the selection process for the last six commissioners violated Proposition 209, but adding that the "Applicant Review Panel" also improperly considered race, ethnicity, and gender. These were characterized as “facial” challenges to Government Code section 8252, subdivision (g) based on Proposition 209, for which various remedies were sought. The State and State Auditor demurred in part on the grounds that Proposition 209 did not apply to the selection of public officers, only to public employees. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on this ground. Connerly appealed. Connerly effectively abandoned his amended complaint, and proposed a new legal theory on appeal--but no new facts--in his opening brief, explicitly citing the authority of Code Civ. Proc. section 472c, subdivision (a). Both the State and State Auditor contended it was unfair for Connerly to raise this theory on appeal because they did not get a chance to disprove it factually. They almost entirely ignored section 472c, which allows a plaintiff to propose new theories on appeal. "Connerly has not strayed from his central factual claim that the composition of the Commission was infected by invidious discrimination. There is no reason to deviate from the well-established rule that section 472c allows a plaintiff to propose new theories on appeal from the sustaining of a demurrer without leave to amend. [. . .] The fact that the instant complaint was found wanting raises precisely the circumstance section 472c was designed to address--to give the plaintiff a final opportunity to propose new facts or legal theories to establish a cause of action. Thus, from the parties' briefing, it appears Connerly can plead at least a prima facie case of equal protection violations. The answer is to apply section 472c, subdivision (a), allow Connerly to amend the complaint again to clarify his new theories, and give respondents the chance to defend the Commission's selection provisions to try to show they comport with federal equal protection principles."