Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Back to Appellate Judges

affirmative action

The Supreme Court avoided a sweeping ruling on the constitutionality of affirmative action programs today, in the highly anticipated case brought by a white student, Abigail Fisher, against the University of Texas.

In the 7-1 ruling, the justices punted, sending the case back to be re-examined by the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court on the grounds that the lower court did not review the university’s affirmative action program carefully enough.

The justices ruled that the lower court should have required the university to prove that its program was narrowly tailored enough to produce the diversity objectives it was designed to achieve.

“Narrow tailoring also requires a reviewing court to verify that it is ‘necessary’ for the university to use race to achieve the educational benefits of diversity,” the justices ruled. “The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.”

The outcome is unlikely to satisfy opponents or proponents of affirmative action programs because it does not clearly rule on whether the University of Texas’s program is constitutional.

The case was brought by Fisher, a white Texan who says she was denied admission to the school in 2008 based on the color of her skin.