U.S. Supreme Court

In 'surprise development,' SCOTUS agrees to consider a voter ban on affirmative action

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action at colleges and universities.

The court accepted the case though it has not yet issued a decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging race-conscious admissions policies at the University of Texas. SCOTUSblog says the new case is “significantly broader” than Fisher and represents “a surprise development.” The Associated Press and the Washington Post also have stories.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself in Fisher and in the new case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The new case will be heard in the next term beginning in October.

Fisher focuses on the specifics of the affirmative action plan at the University of Texas, while Schuette could “produce a far more sweeping decision,” SCOTUSblog says.

In Schuette, the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned the voter initiative in an en banc ruling that focused on a provision barring affirmative action supporters from lobbying lawmakers, university officials and others who control admissions policies, AP says in its account. The lobbying prohibition “undermines the equal protection clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change,” the 6th Circuit said.

The Post quotes from the cert petition (PDF) by Michigan Attorney General General Bill Schuette. “Michigan recognizes that affirmative action has long been controversial; some state entities use it for some programs, some do not,” Schuette wrote. “But until now, no court has ever held that, apart from remedying specific past discrimination, a government must engage in affirmative action.”

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