The first of three widely followed Supreme Court cases this week is out, and court ruled in a 7-1 vote against a lower court’s decision about the University of Texas’ affirmative action policy.
With Justice Elena Kagan recused, the court sent the case back to a federal appeals court for review. The Obama administration had argued in favor of the University of Texas’ system, which allows for race as part of its admissions criteria.
By sending the case of Fisher v. University of Texas back to a lower court, the Supreme Court didn’t make a sweeping ruling on the constitutionality of affirmative action.
Instead, Justice Kennedy said the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals made errors when it upheld the university’s program. The lower court, Kennedy said, should have examined the university program more closely to a “demanding burden of strict scrutiny.”
Now, the Fisher case heads back to the lower court and it could return to the Supreme Court at some point after a decision is rendered.
But the Supreme Court is also hearing another case about affirmative action in its next term, which starts in October 2013.
The Supreme Court also said it will announce more decisions on Tuesday, and that that session isn’t the final one of the term, meaning there will be two additional decision days this week.
Abigail Fisher was denied admission to the University of Texas in 2008. She alleges that she wasn’t admitted, as a Caucasian, because the University of Texas uses race as a factor in university admissions in a way that the court allowed in 2003 in the case of Grutter v Bollinger.
The state of Texas uses a Top 10 Percent plan, which guarantees admission to school for students who are in the top 10 percent of their graduating class. Fisher wasn’t in the top 10 percent of her class. The school used different criteria, including race, to fill the remaining openings at the University of Texas.
The Fisher case was argued last October and was the last one from that session that hadn’t seen a public ruling by the court.
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