U.S. Supreme Court justices grilled lawyers on both sides Wednesday morning, as Byron Allen’s $20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against Comcast went before the high court, Variety reported.
Allen filed suit against Comcast and other cable giants in 2015, over their refusal to carry channels run by his Los Angeles-based Entertainment Studios, including Comedy.TV, Cars.TV, Pets.TV, and Recipe.TV.
The media mogul claimed Comcast chose not to do business with him because he’s black. His attorneys cited a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which says all people should have “the same right” to contracts as whites.
Comcast and the other cable companies countered that their decisions were based on limited capacity, not race, adding that customers weren’t exactly clamoring for Allen’s channels.
Allen’s case was dismissed three times by lower federal courts, but the San Francisco-based U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the case last year on appeal. The San Francisco-based court said lawsuits may move forward if plaintiffs can show that discrimination was one of the factors in the denial of a contract.
Comcast went on to successfully petition the Supreme Court to take up the case. It now centers on whether lawsuits like Allen’s can move forward without showing that racial discrimination was the main cause of the contract denial.
Comcast recently described Allen’s complaint as “frivolous.”
“We believe that the civil rights laws are an essential tool for protecting the rights of African-Americans and other diverse communities,” Comcast said in a statement to Fox Business. “Mr. Allen’s frivolous, baseless claims — which a judge appointed by President Carter threw out three times as having nothing to do with race — debase and distort those laws.”
A ruling on the case is due by the end of June.