Live: Supreme Court Decisisons
Live coverage from the Supreme Court as justices hand down decisions, potentially on marquis cases including the constitutionality of California's Prop. 8, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, state university affirmative action policies and the federal Voting Rights Act.
There are 11 decisions left and two regular days - Monday and Thursday. Justices have a tendency to wait until the very last minute to release the biggest cases.... That's certainly what they did last year with the Obamacare ruling. So today's live blog could very well be a dry run for later this week.
ABC's Chris Good has this from the scene outside: A handful of protesters/activists, lots of cameras and
bystanders--almost all of them for the gay-marriage cases.
A 24-year-old, gay Mormon from Salt Lake City (and
current DC resident) believes DOMA will be overturned. A group of teenage girls
held up a "PRIDE" sign and posed for pictures. One 71-year-old man is
here with a DC-based group demonstrating for the section 5 of the Voting Rights
Act to be upheld.
Here is background on the affirmative action case from ABC's Ariane de Vogue:
The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white Texan, who says she was denied admission to the school in 2008 based on the color of her skin.
In 1997 The Texas legislature passed the "Top Ten Percent Law" in 1997, which mandates that Texas high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their class be automatically admitted to any Texas state university.
In addition to that program, the school considers race along with several other factors for admission. Fisher did not qualify for automatic admission.
Instead she competed with other non-Top-10 state applicants, some of whom were entitled to racial preferences. She argues she was denied a fair chance at admission because of her race.
In Court briefs filed with the Court her lawyers argued, "the Fourteenth Amendment requires an admissions process untainted by racial preferences absent a compelling, otherwise unsatisfied, government interest and narrow tailoring to advance that interest without undue infringement on the rights of non-preferred applicants."
Lawyers for the school argued that UT seeks to "assemble a class that is diverse in innumerable ways—including race—that advance its mission of educating students and preparing them to be leaders of tomorrow."
It was only in 2003 that the Supreme Court took up a similar affirmative action case and narrowly upheld the limited use of race as a factor in law school admissions. That decision—called Grutter v. Bollinger—held that the government has a compelling interest in diversity in public universities. But after O'Connor retired, she was replaced with Justice Samuel Alito who ismore skeptical of racial classifications.
Here's the AP lede:
The Supreme Court has sent a Texas case on race-based college admissions back to a lower court for another look.
The court's 7-1 decision Monday leaves unsettled many of the basic questions about the continued use of race as a factor in college admissions.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, says a federal appeals court needs to subject the University of Texas admission plan to the highest level of judicial scrutiny.More from the AP is HERE.
A brief history of Affirmative Action rulings from ABC's Joan Greve -
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
In 1978, Allan Bakke’s lawsuit against JFK’s Affirmative
Action order made its way to the Supreme Court. Bakke had been rejected twice
from the Medical School of the University of California at Davis despite his
“significantly higher” grades and test scores than those of accepted minority
Bakke claimed that he would have been admitted if not for UC
Davis’ affirmative action program that reserved 16 places (out of 100) for
minority students, which violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Lewis Franklin Powell,
the Court ruled that UC Davis’ system was unconstitutional because it enforced
a quota system that excluded white applicants from part (16 percent) of the
However, Powell also stated that universities have “a legitimate and substantial interest in…
eliminating... the disabling effects of identified discrimination."
Therefore, race could be one of several
factors considered on a case-by-case basis for admission.
The ruling was controversial even among the nine judges, six
of whom issued their own opinion on the case.
Part 2 - A brief history of Affirmative Action decisions from ABC' Joan Greve...
Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger
Barbara Grutter first sued the University of Michigan Law
School in 2001 and its president, Lee Bollinger, after she was denied admission
She claimed that she would have been accepted if minority
students with lower scores had not been chosen instead.
Grutter and her advocates argued that the law school’s
affirmative action policy was a violation of both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Justice O’Connor announced the 5-4 Grutter decision on June
23, 2003, deciding in favor of the law school’s affirmative action policy.
O’Connor said that the Constitution “does not prohibit the law school's narrowly tailored use of race in
admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the
educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."
Justice O’Connor said of the Grutter decision, "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of
racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved
The same day, Chief Justice William Rehnquist announced the
6-3 decision for the other University of Michigan admissions case, Gratz v.
Jennifer Gratz applied to the undergraduate program at the
University of Michigan in 1995 and was rejected. Her legal team claimed that
her rejection was a result of the university’s point system for admission,
which awarded an additional 20 points to minority applicants.
The Supreme Court struck down the university’s admissions
policy, with Rehnquist stating that a numeric assignment to the importance of
racial diversity “ensures that the
diversity contributions of applicants cannot be individually assessed."
Part 3 - A brief history of Affirmative Action decisions from ABC's Joan Greve...Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña
Randty Pech argued that
he had lost the contract for the Department of Transportation’s guardrail
project through the San Juan National Forest because of the Public Works
Employment Act’s set-asides for
minority business owners.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the five-four decision,
which did not strike down the program but did require it to be "subjected to detailed judicial
inquiry to ensure that the personal right to equal protection of the laws has
not been infringed."
This is a file photo, but thsi is the woman who brought the affirmative action case that justices ruled on today - "Plaintiff Abigail Noel Fisher speaks to the media after U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in her case, Oct. 10, 2012 in Washington, DC." Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Imagesby Zachary.B.Wolfon Jun 24, 2013 at 2:52 PM
Why only a 7-1 decision? Kagan recused... per Ariane de Vogue - "Only eight justices will consider whether UT's plan violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution after Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, presumably because she dealt with the case in her previous job as solicitor general."
POLL: Public Opposes Affirmative ActionHow does the public feel about affirmative action?Here's what ABC's pollster Gary Langer wrote this month after an ABC / Washington Post poll:
Seventy-nine percent of whites oppose consideration of race in college admissions, as do 71 percent of nonwhites, including 78 percent of blacks and 68 percent of Hispanics. In the 2001 Gallup poll, opposition was similar to its level now among nonwhites, 74 percent, while higher among whites, 90 percent.
Even political liberals in this survey oppose the practice, by a 2-1 margin.
Other research has found varying views on efforts to assist disadvantaged groups in areas such as college admissions, hiring and promotions, depending on the nature of the effort. Previous ABC News polls, for example, have found greater support for programs that give assistance but not preference, or that are based on income rather than race.
Affirmative Action: The Importance of Anthony KennedySupreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has been viewed as the key swing vote on affirmative action since Sandra Day O'Connor retired. The decision today handing the case back to the 5th Circuit was 7-1, but Kennedy wrote the opinion. Ariane de Vogue has written about why he is the key justice on this issue:
He has said in the past that there is "no constitutional objection" to considering race as one modest factor among many others to achieve diversity. But he has never voted in favor of a race-conscious plan.
Among the possibilities, the court could limit the ruling by saying that UT didn't need to overlay a race-conscious program over a race-neutral program (top 10 percent plan) that was already working. Or it could rule more broadly and say, for example, that the lower court was wrong to defer to the university on the question of when it has reached sufficient diversity.
If the court rules by the end of the month to uphold UT's program, it will come as a tremendous relief to supporters of affirmative action. Because Justice Kagan is recused from the case, a 4-4 tie would leave the lower court decision in favor of the program intact, but have no broad precedential value.
The University of Texas is also challenging whether Fisher, who has now graduated from another university, has the legal right, or "standing," to bring the case.
Here is reaction from libertarian Ilya Shapiro
of the Cato Institute:
While it’s gratifying that the Court recognized that the judicial branch
must exercise independent judgment on constitutional questions, it’s
unfortunate that it even gave UT-Austin a chance to further its claim. As
Justice Thomas wrote in his concurrence, the use of racial classifications in
university admissions is abhorrent to the idea of equal protection of the laws.
There are six cases left. Ariane notes that justices have added an additional day for decisions... tomorrow, Tuesday, June 25th at 10 a.m. It is not clear how many of the six remaining cases they'll hand down then, but they've been doing four on most recent decision days.Key decisions we're still waiting for:2. The federal Defense of Marriage Act3. A key provision of the federal Voting Rights Act
Here's the spin on today's ruling from a conservative point of view:Carrie Severino, chief counsel to
the Judicial Crisis Network and former law clerk for Justice Thomas:
“A nearly unanimous Court has agreed that the Constitution
places a very heavy burden on universities that wish to use racial preferences
in admissions. Minority students can succeed at the highest level
without racial preferences, and, in fact, a growing body of empirical
evidence indicates that these policies do more harm than good for the very
people they are supposed to help. The Court did not decide today
whether those preferences are valid, but they seem one step closer to agreeing
countless parents who simply want their children to be evaluated on the basis
of their character and hard work.”