WILL Sues City of Madison for Unconstitutional Race Discrimination

Madison’s Police Civilian Oversight Board imposes illegal racial quotas

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a federal lawsuit in the Western District of Wisconsin against the City of Madison after the City established a Police Civilian Oversight Board that imposes unconstitutional racial quotas. WILL represents David Blaska, a Madison resident who applied for the Board, but who is ineligible for nine of the eleven seats because he is white. Madison’s system of racial quotas is a clear violation of the Constitution’s ban on racial discrimination. WILL is seeking an injunction requiring the City to reconstitute the board, as well as punitive damages.

The Quote: WILL President and General Counsel, Rick Esenberg, said, “The City of Madison was warned that imposing racial quotas is unconstitutional. The return of race classifications and quotas is a troubling and dangerous step backwards.”


Background: In September 2020, the City of Madison enacted an ordinance, Madison General Ordinance § 5.20, that requires four members of the Police Civilian Oversight Board to belong to the following specific racial groups: “African American,” “Asian,” “Latinx,” and “Native American.” The Madison Common Council then added another racial quota requiring “at least 50% Black members.”

Racial quotas and classifications — enshrined in this City law and the official policy of the City—are unconstitutional, offensive, and repugnant to basic American values. The City of Madison has not identified a compelling government interest that would justify racial quotas. The Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection requires governments – at all levels – to treat citizens as individuals, not members of a group or racial class.

WILL filed a Notice of Claim in January, warning the City of Madison that the racial quotas in the Police Civilian Oversight Board are unconstitutional and would result in a lawsuit without a policy change.

WILL is asking the Court for a declaration that the racial quotas for the Police Civilian Oversight Board and the policy requiring “50% Black members,” are unconstitutional. WILL is also seeking an injunction requiring the City to reconstitute the board, as well as punitive damages.

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