The city's affirmative action-minority enterprise program was overturned Thursday by the state Supreme Court, which said officials failed to produce enough evidence of past discrimination to justify it.
The court also unanimously found that the Minority-Female Business Enterprise program, begun in 1975, was too broadly drawn and failed to consider alternatives to a yearly minority participation goal in city contracting.
The program sets a goal that 35% of city contract dollars go to minorities. City officials declined comment on the ruling and its implications for the program, one of the nation's most recognized and most emulated.
"It is apparent the city had available to it less intrusive means of accomplishing the MFBE's race-conscious purposes but had not fully explored those," Justice Willis B. Hunt Jr. wrote for the seven-member court.
It was not immediately clear whether the ruling on behalf of the American Subcontractors Assn. effectively dismantles the program.
City Atty. Marva Brooks said an appeal is unlikely, but she said unspecified steps would be taken to save the minority program.