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College Affirmative Action Could Be Back Before Supreme Court

Posted Aug 2, 2011 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Two federal appeals decisions this year involving affirmative action and college admissions could bring the issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Washington Post takes a look at the two cases. In one, Fisher v. University of Texas, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas. The entire appeals court refused an en banc appeal by a 9-7 vote on June 17, Tex Parte Blog reported. According to the Post, the dissenters “practically invited the Supreme Court to step in.”

In another case, the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Michigan constitutional amendment banning colleges and universities from granting any preferential treatment to minorities. On Friday, Michigan’s attorney general asked for an en banc rehearing, Reuters reports. The Squire Sanders Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog posted the petition for rehearing (PDF) in the case, Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Regents of the University of Michigan.

The Supreme Court considered race in admissions in a pair of decisions in 2003. The court struck down a university admissions policy in Gratz v. Bollinger that automatically awarded a bonus to underrepresented minorities. But the court upheld a law school admissions policy in Grutter v. Bollinger because race was just one factor considered in a larger review of the applicant.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor voted with the 5-4 majority in Grutter. Her replacement, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., is more skeptical of racial remedies, the Post says.

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