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SCOTUS Punts On Affirmative Action; Clarence Thomas Calls Practice ‘A Nonstarter’

June 25, 2013 by  

SCOTUS Punts On Affirmative Action; Clarence Thomas Calls Practice ‘A Nonstarter’

The U.S. Supreme Court was expected to hand down a landmark decision Monday, one that would determine the fate of affirmative action in America.

Instead, it took no action and remanded the case back to a lower court, opining that a university’s admissions practices weren’t properly vetted by the lower court and that, in reconsidering the case, the lower court should examine the process correctly — instead of “deferring to the University’s good faith,” as Chief Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

The decision doesn’t have the effect of endorsing or repealing affirmative action, but it does suggest the Supreme Court is stocked with justices who, if a merits case appeared before them, would favor ending the 48-year-old practice.

In his opinion Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas went beyond that hypothetical, letting it be known that he clearly believes there’s no place in America for institutionalized racial favoritism. He revisited his minority opinion of the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the court upheld another university’s affirmative action admissions practices:

I write separately to explain that I would overrule Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306 (2003), and hold that a State’s use of race in higher education admissions decisions is categorically prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause…Attaining diversity for its own sake is a nonstarter. As even Grutter recognized, the pursuit of diversity as an end is nothing more than impermissible “racial balancing.” … Rather, diversity can only be the means by which the University obtains educational benefits; it cannot be an end pursued for its own sake. Therefore, the educational benefits allegedly produced by diversity must rise to the level of a compelling state interest in order for the program to survive strict scrutiny.

…It is also noteworthy that, in our desegregation cases, we rejected arguments that are virtually identical to those advanced by the University today. The University asserts, for instance, that the diversity obtained through its discriminatory admissions program prepares its students to become leaders in a diverse society… The segregationists likewise defended segregation on the ground that it provided more leadership opportunities for blacks.

Monday’s case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, involved a white woman who was denied admission to the university and sued on the grounds of racial discrimination, arguing that other less-qualified minority students had been admitted ahead of her, thanks to affirmative action.

Instead of delivering a seismic ruling that favored either the plaintiff or the university, the Supreme Court essentially interjected the court system into future affirmative action policies at universities by asserting that schools must apply “strict scrutiny” in justifying the role racial background is to play in the admissions process. As Amy Howe explained the ruling Monday on SCOTUS blog:

The Court in Fisher took pains to make clear exactly what this means:  courts can no longer simply rubber-stamp a university’s determination that it needs to use affirmative action to have a diverse student body.  Instead, courts themselves will need to confirm that the use of race is “necessary” — that is, that there is no other realistic alternative that does not use race that would also create a diverse student body.  Because the lower court had not done so, the Court sent the case back for it to determine whether the university could make this showing.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • Ron r

    Clarence Thomas is against AANiw that he has gotten his. Had he turned down any help when it was afforded him I could if not agree with him at least respect his views. It’s like getting your titanic life vest and saying damn the child or children left behind. Then again there is a good chance justice Thomas thinks apartheid was a good thing for South Africa ,and prison was good for Mandela ,and Steven Beiko fell down a step to his death.

    • Tommy cunningham

      Clarence Thomas was born in 48, pretty sure he didn’t get his AA to go to school and make something of himself.

      • Ron r

        I’m pretty sure he did,read your heros bio.

  • flashy

    AA was needed in its formative years. Of that, there is little rational doubt. The question becomes today, is inequality of educational opportunity due to race existing in such extent as to require quotas based on race.

    Perhaps not. But it certainly is based upon income and geography. There is no doubt that lower income areas have lower quality schools, especially in the South and large cities. Shall there be quotas instead setting aside openings based on income or geography ?

    As an aside, my nephew complained about not getting into vet college because of AA. He did nit like my esponse. Because he couldn’t cut it at a level of competence at the low tiers, he’s blaming AA for his failure? (His family is far right wing…always whining and not willing to accept responsibility etc etc. It’s all about them, selfish and whining that its someone else’s fault. A tendency I have observed as typical for the majority if right wing radicals)

    A school has openings for 200. 180 are open admissions. To me, that means I should be in the 180…no “educational hardship” existed which would hamper my education. So with quality schools, I couldn’t cut it, and thus complain I should still be considered even without an educational handicap ? I think not.

    • Tommy cunningham

      Actually far right wing is for individual liberty and responsability! First off if a community is poor, then the family can better themselfs and move or the community can clean up their act, take responsability for themselves instead of looking to take from someone else to better themselves which liberals preach, this the ones truly not being responsable for their out comes, u shouldn’t get into college because ur poor or a different color. A person should get into college because they earned it and meet the same requirements as everyone else’

  • Brent black

    Thank god for Clarence Thomas. Someone with a little common sense.


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