Supreme Court in Affirmative Action Case

January 13, 2016

Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments in an affirmative action case out of the University of Texas but did not seem to lean toward supporting the plan. A ruling against the school could jeopardize affirmative action in similar institutions across the country.

Justice Antonio Scalia went so far as to say that minority students might do better to enroll in less demanding schools where the academic standards are not as high. He explained that he did not believe that the University of Texas should seek to admit as many blacks as possible. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy likely holds the swing vote but has never voted in favor of affirmative action. The court previously heard a similar case in 2013, and he expressed his frustration at hearing another case when the situation remains unchanged. Justice Clarence Thomas, who vehemently opposes affirmative action, did not comment during the pointed questions asked of the defense lawyers. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. challenged the value of diversity in math and science classes.

The case was originally brought by Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian female. She claimed that the school did not admit her due to race. She later attended Louisiana State University.

The University of Texas automatically accepts any students across the state who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Since some high schools are not diverse, this permits a large number of minorities to enroll.

Even the justices who leaned toward supporting affirmation seemed to express doubts about the case. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed that this program was completely race driven, and minority high school students have no motivation to seek an integrated education at another high school. Justice Sonia Sotomayor believes that the school wants diversity in general, not just in race admissions. Justice Stephen G. Breyer expressed concerns that all affirmative action programs would eventually be cut nationally. Justice Elena Kagan did not hear the case because she was previously involved in it during her tenure as solicitor general of the United States.

The court is expected to make a final decision in the affirmative action case by June 2016.

Changes in affirmative action laws could affect racial discrimination cases. If you believe that you have been the target of unjust treatment at work due to race, contact our attorney for help.