Supreme Court Deals Blow to Affirmative Action

Justices sent Abigail Fisher case back for review

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 24, 2013 9:49 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Supreme Court overwhelmingly struck down a lower court decision upholding the University of Texas at Austin's affirmative action program today, sending Abigail Fisher's case back to a lower court for review. The decision was 7-1, with only Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting (and Elena Kagan recusing herself). Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion (pdf here), which declares that using race as an admission requirement is only constitutional if that's necessary to achieve diversity, USA Today explains. Amy Howe at ScotusBlog identifies this as the "money quote":

  • "The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity."

The ruling doesn't overturn previous decisions authorizing affirmative action programs, but it will lead to more scrutiny of those programs. Justices Scalia and Thomas, however, indicated that they would have gone further if they'd been asked to. Other decisions today included:

  • The court intends to review certain Obama administration recess appointments, made while Congress was technically in a "pro forma" session, setting up what CNN calls "a major constitutional test of executive power."
  • In another race-related decision, the justices ruled 5-4 to strike down a racial harassment case that an employee had filed against Ball State University. At issue was whether the white colleague who allegedly threatened Maetta Vance could be considered a supervisor, which would allow Vance to sue the school, Reuters explains. The court said the colleague could not be.

This March 5, 2009, file photo shows the US Supreme Court building in Washington.
This March 5, 2009, file photo shows the US Supreme Court building in Washington.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
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