Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Case Back to Appeals Court
Today the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case on the affirmative action program at the University of Texas at Austin campus, deciding to send the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further scrutiny in a seven to one decision.
The case,Fisher v. University of Texas, which comes from a Caucasian student claiming to have been denied admissions at the University of Texas at Austin on account of her race, could "eliminate diversity as a rationale sufficient to justify any use of race in admission decisions." The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit previously ruled in favor of the University of Texas, indicating that the university had not violated the civil or constitutional rights of the plaintiffs.
The opinion [PDF], written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, argues that the Fifth Circuit did not review the program with sufficient scrutiny as required by the Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger. The Grutter case ruled that affirmative action programs in university admissions were constitutional provided the program takes into account multiple qualifications "of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element." Kennedy also wrote that the UT Austin program could only be considered constitutional if the university could prove "no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity."
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from the majority opinion, believing that the Court should have upheld the decision in favor of UT Austin. In her dissent, she wrote [PDF] "I have several times explained why government actors,including state universities, need not be blind to the lingering effects of 'an overtly discriminatory past,' the legacy of 'centuries of law-sanctioned inequality.'" Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case.
Media Resources: Fisher v. University of Texas 6/24/2013; Reuters 6/24/2013; USA Today 6/24/2013; Feminist Newswire 10/10/2012
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8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .