Supreme Court Ruling On Affirmative Action Sends The Case Back To The Lower Court

June 24, 2013  |  

The Supreme Court today ruled on the case of Fisher vs. The University of Texas, with the justices deciding 7-to-1 to send the case back to the lower court for a closer look.

“The decision did not disturb the Supreme Court’s general approach to affirmative action in admissions decisions, saying that educational diversity is a government interest sufficient to overcome the general ban on racial classifications by the government. But the court added that public institutions must have good reasons to use the particular means they use to achieve that goal, which can include different admissions standards for students of different races,” reports The New York Times. The school’s affirmative action approach could put an end to the program as it is now. But for the moment, it doesn’t change anything.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, stressed that affirmative action programs must be specific in their goals and in the ways in which they are reached. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the dissenting justice, said she would’ve accepted the lower court’s decision, which supported the University of Texas’ program. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because she was involved with the case earlier. In this case, Abigail Fisher filed her lawsuit saying she’d been denied admission to the University of Texas unfairly.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that affirmative action made its way to the highest court. Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003 brought affirmative action before the court. But now, with different judges on the bench, there was some belief that the outcome could be different.

“Another factor fueling Fisher’s lawsuit was that the university has produced significant diversity by automatically offering about three-quarters of its spots to graduates in the top 10 percent of their Texas high schools, under a 1990s state law signed by then-Gov. George W. Bush,” reports the Associated Press.

“More than 8 in 10 African-American and Latino students who enrolled at the flagship campus in Austin in 2011 were automatically admitted, according to university statistics. Even among the rest, both sides acknowledge that the use of race is modest,” the article continues.

Alan Jenkins, a Supreme Court litigator and executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, an organization that pushes for expanded opportunities for all in the US, praised the decision in a statement to the media.

“This is a victory for equal opportunity and the future of our nation. We are thrilled that a majority of the Court found in favor of equal opportunity in higher education,” the statement reads.

Politico describes it as a decision that “doesn’t give an explicit up or down” on affirmative action. Where do you think affirmative action is headed in this country?



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