Court Rejects Challenge to Women and Minority Owned Preferences

By Paul Emanuelli

In its March 2015 decision in David Riggins v. Polk County, the United States Court of Appeals dismissed an equal protection lawsuit launched by a white male who challenged the Polk County bidding procedures that allow women-owned and minority-owned businesses bidding on municipal contracts an opportunity to match the lowest qualifying bid if their original bids are within five percent of the low bid.
The lawsuit was dismissed on technical grounds since the trial court found that the unrepresented complainant had bid under his corporate business but had then attempted to sue as an individual since applicable court rules required corporate plaintiffs to be represented by legal counsel. The trial court did not allow the plaintiff to end-run the legal representation requirement by bringing the lawsuit in his personal capacity. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court decision and dismissed the appeal. As this case illustrates, the formal legal entity that submits a bid will be the legal entity that will have legal standing to bring subsequent challenges against a bidding process. Other related legal persons who form part of a bidding consortium, such as individual owners or subcontractors, may not have the legal standing to challenge that process even if they are impacted by the outcome of the bidding competition.