The Supreme Court is set to decide soon whether justices will again hear the case of Abigail Noel Fisher, a white student who was denied admission to the University of Texas-Austin. The court first dealt with the case two years ago, sending it back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Fisher’s case is far from the justices’ first handling of affirmative action. The court’s rulings have been in flux for more than 35 years.
The Supreme Court in 1978 deemed unconstitutional a University of California Davis Medical School policy setting aside 16 of 100 first-year slots for racial minorities. The decision, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, upheld use of race as a factor in admissions so long as it did not set a quota insulating minorities from comparison with other candidates.
In a 5-4 decision in 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in Gratz v. Bollinger that a University of Michigan system for undergraduate admissions that awarded extra points to minorities was unconstitutional. The court ruled the same year that the school’s law school admissions, which used an individualized application review that included race among a variety of other qualifications, was permissible.
The high court remanded the Fisher case to the 5th Circuit in 2013.
Texas’s policy guarantees admission to its flagship campus in Austin to the top 10 percent of graduates from each high school in the state and considers race among the factors used to fill the rest of the freshman class. The circuit court should use “strict scrutiny” to evaluate the legality of any race-conscious admission practice to increase diversity, justices said.
The circuit court again ruled in the university’s favor, setting up another appeal to the Supreme Court. Filings on whether the Supreme Court should again hear the case are due April 15.