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Comcast Eyes High Court Victory (3)

June 10, 2019, 1:37 PM; Updated: June 10, 2019, 8:23 PM

Comcast Corp. will try to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to nix a civil rights dispute with a minority-owned media company.

The justices agreed to review a decision from the California-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allowing a suit against the media giant to go forward.

Entertainment Studios Networks sued Comcast after years of failed attempts to get the company to carry its programming. ESN said the decision not to contract with it was racially motivated.

Comcast has called the claims outlandish, pointing to its “outstanding record of supporting and fostering diverse programming,” including “more than 100 networks geared toward diverse audiences,” according to Comcast spokesman John Demming.

The Ninth Circuit, though, said the allegations in the complaint that race was a factor in the decision to turn ESN away were sufficient to move ahead with the litigation.

But five other federal appellate courts have determined that such allegations aren’t enough to move forward, according to Comcast’s request to the justices. To do so, the plaintiff must allege that race was the “but for,” or actual cause of the decision.

In light of Comcast’s record, Demming said it was no surprise that the “trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims of race discrimination three times, finding them utterly without merit.” All that’s left at this stage is “a technical point of law that was decided in a novel way by the Ninth Circuit,” he Comcast said.

Attorneys for ESN declined to comment for this story.

The case is Comcast Corp. v. Nat’l Ass’n of African Am.-Owned Media, U.S., No. 18-1171, review granted 6/10/19.

(Updates with declined comment from ESN)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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