National Association of African American-Owned Media v. Charter Communications, Inc., No. 17-55723 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
A plaintiff need not plead that racism was the but-for cause of a defendant's conduct, but only that racism was a factor in the decision not to contract such that the plaintiff was denied the same right as a white citizen. Mixed-motive claims are cognizable under 42 U.S.C. 1981.
Entertainment Studios, along with NAAAOM, filed suit alleging that Charter's refusal to enter into a carriage contract was racially motivated and in violation of section 1981. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Charter's motion to dismiss, holding that the complaint sufficiently alleged that discriminatory intent played at least some role in Charter's refusal to contract with Entertainment Studios and thus denied Entertainment Studios the same right to contract as a white-owned company. The panel also held that plaintiffs' 1981 claim was not barred by the First Amendment where section 1981 was a content-neutral regulation that would satisfy intermediate scrutiny. The panel noted that the fact that cable operators engage in expressive conduct when they select which networks to carry did not automatically require the application of strict scrutiny in this case.