SCOTUS sends affirmative-action case back to 5th Circuit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A lawsuit claiming that a Texas university's consideration of race in its admissions practices violates the Equal Protection Clause has been sent back by the Supreme Court of the United States to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In its ruling on the suit filed by a Caucasian woman denied admission in 2008, the justices, however, did not strike down the use of affirmative action by the university.

In a 7-1 holding in Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, et al., the U.S. justices reversed the 5th Circuit’s affirmation of the university’s admissions plan because the Circuit court did not hold the school to the “demanding burden of strict scrutiny” outlined in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), and Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 305 (1978)(opinion of Powell, J).

The admissions plan at issue was adopted in 2004 following decisions in Grutter and Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003), in which the school reverted to an explicit consideration of race.

The 5th Circuit held that Grutter required courts to give substantial deference to the university, both in the definition of the compelling interest in diversity’s benefits and in deciding whether its specific plan was narrowly tailored to achieve its stated goal.

“A plaintiff, of course, bears the burden of placing the validity of a university’s adoption of an affirmative action plan in issue. But strict scrutiny imposes on the university the ultimate burden of demonstrating, before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice,” Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

The majority ordered the 5th Circuit to assess whether the University of Texas at Austin has offered sufficient evidence to prove that its admissions program is narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversity.

Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wrote concurring opinions. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case.

Other cases handed down were:
•    United States v. Kebodeaux, 12-418, which held that the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act’s registration requirements as applied to Kebodeaux fall within the scope of Congress’s authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause;
•    Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, 12-142, which held that state law design-defect claims that turn on the adequacy of a drug’s warnings are pre-empted by federal law under PLIVA Inc. v. Mensing;
•    University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 12-484, which held that Title VII retaliation claims must be proved according to traditional principles of but-for causation, not the lessened causation test stated in 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e-2(m); and  
•    Vance v. Ball State University, et al., 11-556, which held an employee is a “supervisor” for purposes of vicarious liability under Title VII only if the supervisor is empowered by the employer to take tangible employment actions against the victim.  
Also Monday, the justices granted cert in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, 12-1281, on the president of the United States’ recess appointment power. The high court is asked to answer whether the president’s recess appointment power can be exercised during a recess that occurs within a session of the U.S. Senate or if it is limited to recesses that happen between enumerated sessions of the Senate. The justices are also asked to decide whether the recess appointment power may be exercised to fill existing vacancies during a recess or if it is limited to vacancies that first arose during that recess.

The parties will also brief and argue whether the recess appointment power may be exercised when the Senate is convening every three days in pro forma sessions.

The justices denied rehearing in Laura Jennings v. Indianapolis, et al., 12-9069, a case that came out of the federal court in Indianapolis and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Laura Jennings, a former employee of the Department of Defense, filed a Title VII lawsuit after she was fired during her probationary period in late 2010. She was a contract representative in the DOD’s Defense Finance and Accounting Service. She alleged retaliation in connection to her firing. The Office of Equal Opportunity Programs found her claim was untimely because she didn’t contact the EEO counselor within 45 days of her discharge and she failed to state a claim regarding unemployment benefits.

She also filed her federal lawsuit before the 180-day waiting period required to initiate a civil action after an appeal of the EEO’s decision.

The federal court in Indianapolis granted summary judgment against her on the grounds she failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The 7th Circuit affirmed in November 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court originally denied taking the case May 13.



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  2. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  3. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  4. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

  5. (A)ll (C)riminals (L)ove (U)s is up to their old, "If it's honorable and pro-American, we're against it," nonsense. I'm not a big Pence fan but at least he's showing his patriotism which is something the left won't do.