News Column

US Supreme Court to Hear Affirmative Action Case

Sept. 28, 2012

Eric Gill --

Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court begins its next session Monday with a historically significant case in its docket that could potentially rock the student admissions staffs of every university in the nation.

The affirmative-action case before the Court is Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

The Supreme Court will begin consideration of the affirmative-action case on Oct. 10, and legal scholars are betting there is a good chance the conservative-leaning justices will rule in favor of the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher.

The court decided on a similar landmark case involving university admissions in 2003, when it narrowly ruled in favor of keeping in place affirmative-action policies on the part of the University of Michigan law school that helped keep intact the long-standing tradition of promoting diversity in the college admissions process. In short, the court decided in Grutter v. Bollinger that the University of Michigan could admit applicants to the law school based on a limited use of race as a consideration.

Fisher challenged a similar policy four years ago when she filed suit against the University of Texas at Austin. She was joined by Rachel Michalewicz as a plaintiff. The women claimed the school's admission policy discriminated against them because they are Caucasian.

At the heart of the matter in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin is whether or not the school and state-enacted laws unfairly and disproportionately favor minority college applicants -- and Hispanic high school graduates in particular.

The Supreme Court's decision earlier this year to hear the Fisher case marks a turning point, because legal scholars had assumed the issue of affirmative action as it applies to college admissions had been decided in Grutter. With a 5-4 conservative majority, and Justice Elena Kagan recusing herself from the case, reportedly due to her previous position as U.S. solicitor general, court-watchers are anticipating a historic ruling that could alter more than 40 years of affirmative-action precedence in college admissions' policies for minorities.

For a complete review of the original case, please see Abigail Noel FISHER and Rachel Multer Michalewicz, Plaintiffs v. UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, et al., Defendants.

Source: (c) 2012. All rights reserved.

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