The Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments for the second time in the case of Abigail Fisher, a white student who claims she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of a policy that favored black applicants. Last time the Justices sent the case back to the circuit court, this time Justice Kennedy seemed to toy with the idea of sending it all the way back to the trial court; not likely.
You can read Lyle Denniston’s analysis here.
There’s also a lot of buzz today about Justice Scalia’s remark, “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, … a slower track school where they do well.”
He probably meant that black students more often come from high schools where the curriculum is less demanding and may be unprepared for UT’s more rigorous course load. While it sounded racist to some, it’s more likely just Scalia being his bad un-PC self.
On my way to the Supreme Court yesterday morning I read a Tweet that said it was unlikely the Court would announce any major opinion today since two big cases were scheduled for argument. Well, so much for the Twitter tea leaves.
Justice Kennedy announced the opinion in Schuette v.Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action saying, ” this case is not about . . . race-conscious admissions policies.” The 6-2 opinion approves a Michigan ban on the use of racial preferences in state university admissions.
In a fierce and lengthy dissent from the bench Justice Sotomayor castigated the majority opinion that “fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the injustice.”
Great quote from Garrett Epps in The Atlantic: Does anybody else think it could be a problem to put the question of minority rights to a majority vote in state initiatives?
I wonder what Cecilia Marshall, widow of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, and her son, Thurgood “Goodie” Marshall Jr., thought of the Court’s decision?
The Supreme Court this afternoon heard arguments on Michigan’s “Proposal 2”, a voter-approved law that forbids the use of race in college admissions, as well as public employment and contracting. The case is Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (note that I’ve labeled my drawings “Schuette v. BAMN” because it’s shorter. BAMN stands for “By Any Means Necessary”, and comes from the challenger’s full title, Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigration Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary). But enough from me. Here are the sketches.
Lyle Denniston has the full story here.
On the first day of what promises to be a steamy week in Washington, at least outside the Supreme Court building, the Court announced its opinion in a long awaited affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas. When the case was argued back in October it appeared that the University’s use of race as an admissions factor might be struck down.Instead, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court said such programs must meet the test of “strict scrutiny” as well as being“narrowly tailored”.
Surprisingly, for a case argued at the beginning of the term, there was but one dissenter in the 7-1 decision (Justice Kagan took no part), Justice Ginsburg.
“The Court rightly declines to cast off the equal protection framework …”, writes Ginsburg. “Yet it stops short of reaching the conclusion that (it) warrants.”
Justice Alito took a sip from his coffee cup.
Nine years after deciding that race, though not quotas, could be considered in college admissions a new, somewhat more conservative Supreme Court is reconsidering affirmative action. The case against the University of Texas was brought by Abigail Fisher, a Texas high school student who says she was denied admission because of her race.
The first question for Fisher’s attorney, Bert W. Rein, came from Justice Ginsburg, who along with Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, is expected to uphold the Court’s earlier position on affirmative action in college admissions. Justice Kagan, whose empty chair can be seen on the right, is not taking part in the case.
The more conservative members of the Court, who had been mostly silent during Rein’s argument, sprang into active questioning as Gregory Garre took the lectern to defend the university’s program.
Justice Alito, a foe of affirmative action plans who replaced Justice O’Connor, the author of the Court’s earlier opinon in Grutter v. Bollinger, asked Garre, “I thought that the whole purpose of affirmative action was to help students …from underpriviledged backgrounds, …”
“But you say …it doesn’t admit enough African Americans and Hispanics …from priviledged backgrounds.”
Replied Garre, “Because, Your Honor, our point is that we want minorities from different backgrounds”
Justice Kennedy, as usual the swing vote on which the case hinges, said, “So what you’re saying is that what counts is race above all.”
The term “critical mass”, refering to the proportion of minorities in the student body, was bandied back and forth with both Garre and Solicitor General Verrilli trying to avoid making it sound like a number.
Justice Scalia to General Verrilli, “So we should stop calling it mass.”
Verrilli, “I agree.”
Scalia, “Call it a cloud or something like that.”
SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe has the Plain English summary here.