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Challenge to NCAA’s “No-Felons” Rule Goes Before 9th Circuit; Case Part of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Ongoing Work to Address Barriers to Re-entry

For Immediate Release January 10, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tomorrow, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case of Dominic Hardie v. NCAA.  The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed the suit on behalf of Dominic Hardie in 2013 seeking to challenge the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) policy permanently banning all individuals with a felony conviction from coaching in NCAA-certified high school events, arguing that the policy violates Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it disproportionately impacts African Americans, who are more than three times as likely as white Americans to have a felony conviction.  Title II prohibits discriminatory denials of access to places of public accommodation, like sports arenas and stadiums.  The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, together with the law firms of Morrison & Foerster LLP and Call & Jensen, who represent Mr. Hardie in the case, filed the appeal after the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the NCAA, finding disparate impact liability does not apply to Title II.

Mr. Hardie is a 38-year-old African American social worker who founded Triple D Hoops, a Houston-area nonprofit organization that works to positively affect the lives of young athletes by developing their self-esteem, confidence and motivation through basketball.  Mr. Hardie was convicted of drug possession when he was 23-years-old and has not been convicted of a crime since then.  A former Division I college basketball player himself, Mr. Hardie is a dedicated coach committed to helping his players secure college basketball scholarships.  In 2012, the NCAA, pursuant to its arbitrary blanket ban policy, denied Mr. Hardie’s application to coach in its tournaments because of his nonviolent felony from 2001.

James Siegel, Morrison & Foerster, counsel who will present tomorrow on behalf of Mr. Hardie, will argue that the Ninth Circuit should overturn the district court’s decision that Title II does not include disparate impact liability in light of the United States Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Texas Department of Housing v. Inclusive Communities, which held that federal “anti-discrimination laws must be construed to encompass disparate impact claims when their text refers to the consequences of actions and not just to the mindset of actors…”  Mr. Hardie is seeking injunctive relief under Title II that would minimize the racially discriminatory impact of the NCAA’s arbitrary and unnecessary rule.

“The NCAA’s blanket refusal to allow anyone with a felony conviction to coach at its tournaments is discriminatory and serves no legitimate business purpose,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “Mr. Hardie has paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance.  As we will argue before the Ninth Circuit, unnecessary barriers that arbitrarily exclude rehabilitated ex-offenders from public establishments and prevent them from reintegrating into society must be eradicated.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is committed to eradicating barriers to re-entry for people with criminal histories.  Over the past year, the Lawyers’ Committee has launched initiatives, filed new litigation and resolved cases addressing barriers faced by returning citizens seeking access to employment, housing, and educational opportunity.

The NCAA is represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and Seth P. Waxman will be presenting the oral argument before the Ninth Circuit on behalf of the NCAA.

The case is Dominic Hardie v. NCAA, case number 15-55576, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education; and criminal justice.  For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

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