Monday, June 24, 2013

SCOTUS Tells 5th Circuit "Wrong, Do It Over" on Affirimative Action

In a 7-1 ruling (Kagan abstained on the opinion) in the Fischer v University of Texas affirmative action case, the US Supreme Court, in short, told the Fifth Circuit Court "Wrong, go do it again until you get it right".

Strict scrutiny must not be “‘strict in theory, but fatal infact,’”Adarand, supra, at 237; see also Grutter, supra, at 326. But the opposite is also true. Strict scrutiny must not be strict in theory but feeble in fact. In order for judicial review to be meaningful, a university must make a showing that its plan is narrowly tailored to achieve the only interest that this Court has approved in this context:  the benefits of a student body diversity that “encompasses a . . . broa[d] array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element.” Bakke, 438 U. S., at 315 (opinion of Powell, J.). The judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Justice Ginsberg was the sole dissenting justice.

The case is one that questions "reverse discrimination" and affirmative action quotas in regards to admissions standards at institutions of higher learning.

Fischer contends that the University of Texas used admissions policies allegedly intended to "increase diversity" as, instead, a means to restrict applicants' acceptance based upon racial demographics rather than academic potential.

UT responds that it does its best to make the university equally accessible not only to members of all racial demographics, but at a mixture they believe generates a culturally diverse learning experience that enhances the world view of all students.

The debate and arguments go deeper. Transcriptions of the oral arguments are available here

The courts' decision was to send the case back to the lower courts with guidance to take a closer look at UT's admissions policies and procedures in regards to its "diversity policy".