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Law School Case Brief

Saint Francis Coll. v. Al-Khazraji - 481 U.S. 604, 107 S. Ct. 2022 (1987)


42 U.S.C.S. § 1981, at a minimum, reaches discrimination directed against an individual because he or she is genetically part of an ethnically and physiognomically distinctive sub-grouping of homo sapiens.


Respondent Al-Khazraji, a United States citizen, was born in Iraq and a member of the Muslim faith. Al-Khazraji was employed as an associate professor at petitioner  Saint Francis College, a private college in Pennsylvania. On February 23, 1978, Saint Francis denied his request for tenure. On October 30, 1980, Al-Khazraji filed a complaint against Saint Francis in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The amended complaint alleged that the petitioner and its tenure committee filed an action under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981 alleging discrimination based on race, even though under current racial classifications, Arabs were considered Caucasians. Section 1981 provides, inter alia, that all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right to make and enforce contracts as was enjoyed by white citizens. The district court granted Saint Francis College's motion for summary judgment, finding that § 1981 did not reach claims of discrimination based on Arabian ancestry. Al-Khazraji appealed to the intermediate appellate court, which held that respondent Al-Khazraji had alleged discrimination based on race and that, although under current racial classifications Arabs were considered Caucasians, Al-Khazraji could maintain his § 1981 claim. Petitioner Saint Francis College sought certiorari review.


Did 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981 reach claims of discrimination based on Arabian ancestry?




The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari review and concluded that, based on the history of § 1981, Congress intended to protect from discrimination identifiable classes of persons who were subjected to intentional discrimination solely because of their ancestry or ethnic characteristics. The Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals, holding that § 1981, at a minimum, reached discrimination against an individual because he or she was genetically part of an ethnically distinctive subgrouping of homo sapiens.

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