ETX lawyer reacts to Supreme Court affirmative action ruling - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

ETX lawyer reacts to Supreme Court affirmative action ruling


In a 7-to-1 decision Monday, the Supreme Court side-stepped a sweeping decision on the use of race-conscious school admission policies.

In Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin et. al, the justices were looking at the criteria at the University of Texas and whether it violates the equal protection rights of some white applicants. In a decision that surprised many Monday, the Court threw the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further review.

Since the fall of 2004, UT has used race as one factor when admitting students outside of the statewide top ten percent rule.

But a white female student, Abby Fisher, says race is what kept her from being admitted to UT in 2008.

It's not known yet what effect the decision will have on affirmative action on college campuses.

"The law of the land of affirmative action is really unsettled right now," said Leigh Porter, a shareholder at the Wilson Law Firm in Tyler. "I think colleges are probably left kind of scratching their heads wondering what are we going to do? But really, right now, nothing's changed."

The last time the Supreme Court had dealt with affirmative action on college campuses was ten years ago, when they said that race can be one of many factors used to create a diverse student body as long as quotas aren't used. When they made that decision, though, the Court said colleges needed to use strict scrutiny to narrowly tailor their admissions plans so that they achieved diversity without putting too much weight on a student's race.

the Supreme Court said that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did not dig deeply enough into UT's admissions policy when it ruled in its favor and the University didn't adequately prove that the top ten percent admissions program doesn't create enough campus diversity.

"Basically what the Supreme Court is saying by saying strict scrutiny is, no, you have to dig in there," Porter said. "You have to see, I mean, was there - you can't just assume, or presume, that what they're telling you is correct. You need to look and see, was there another race-neutral alternative they could have used."

It's not clear when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will take this case up, but Porter says it's very possible the Supreme Court will see this case again in a year or two.

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