The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that a lower court’s decision on an affirmative action case brought against the University of Texas was incorrect, sending the case back to the lower court for further deliberations.
The court voted 7-1 in favor of sending Fisher v. University of Texas (PDF) back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals because the justices felt it was not properly weighed under standards set forth in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 ruling and key tentpost under affirmative action that narrowly permits universities to use race and ethnic origin as a criteria for admission.
“The District Court and Court of Appeals confined the strict scrutiny inquiry in too narrow a way by deferring to the University’s good faith in its use of racial classifications and affirming the grant of summary judgment on that basis,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court’s majority. “The Court vacates that judgment, but fairness to the litigants and the courts that heard the case requires that it be remanded so that the admissions process can be considered and judged under a correct analysis.”
He added that the Fifth Circuit “must assess whether the University has offered sufficient evidence that would prove that its admissions program is narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversity.”
SCOTUS Blog noted that the decision seems to affirm the ruling in Grutter, which the plaintiffs sought to overturn in this case. However, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have said they would vote to overturn Grutter, so it’s likely not the last time the court will consider the matter.
“Today’s decision is an important victory for our nation’s ongoing work to build a more inclusive, diverse America,” Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told Raw Story through a spokesperson. “We believe that the University of Texas’s admissions policy is a carefully crafted one that will ultimately be upheld by the Court of Appeals. In reaffirming that a diverse learning environment benefits students, our workforce and the country as a whole, the ruling makes it clear that now is the time to expand our commitment to diversity in all of our institutions to ensure that we are well-positioned to compete in the diverse economy of the 21st century.”
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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